It’s important to have a basic understanding of what to look for when starting out as a surfer. This post serves to give one a basic understanding of what should be considered before paddling out.
6 Ways to Stay Safe While Surfing
Know the Conditions
It’s always good to know as much as possible before arriving at a surf spot. It’s good to know if the tide is rising or dropping. It’s good to know if the swell is building. A well-informed surfer can plan their equipment accordingly.
One day I was surfing a spot with the swell on the rise. I paddled out on my 6’6” surfboard using a comp leash (extra thin leash). The first hour was a dream with fun predictable 8-foot faces. Then the swell jumped in size. Within one hour, the waves were over triple overhead in size. Triple overhead means the waves were three times as tall as me. I’m six feet tall. Not only was my board too small to catch anything, but if I fell on one of those monstrous waves, my leash would most likely snap, and my board would be playing pinball on the boulder lined shore.
Watch the Wind
You should also be aware of what the wind is doing. It is very common along Maui’s south and west shores for people to be paddleboarding. If the wind speed increases abruptly, it can push a paddleboarder out to sea. If paddlers are not comfortable with their equipment and fitness level then they will require rescue. Know what the wind is doing before you go out and pay attention while enjoying Maui’s beauty. The wind on Maui’s south shore could go from calm to blowing 25mph-plus offshore in a matter of minutes.
Watch the Sets
Two other things to look for are: how big are the sets and how consistent is it? Waves usually come in sets of two to five. This phenomenon is referred to by surfers as ‘sets.’ Understanding what sets are is important. A surf break may appear calm but actually, the same break may prove to be dangerous during sets. My rule is for that for every six feet in wave face height, watch the conditions for at least a 15 minutes. If the waves are ‘triple-overhead‘ or have 20-foot faces, I’d watch the waves for 45 minutes before paddling out. You could observe two to three sets and have the best idea of what to expect.
Knowing Your Limits
If In Doubt, Don’t Go Out
Although it’s great to push yourself, you should also be aware of your limits. Before paddling out, ask yourself, “if my leash broke, would I be able to swim comfortably to shore?” If the answer is no, then look for another surfing spot.
Know Your Location
When you arrive at a surf spot, always know where the channel is located. The channel is where water will carry you away from the shore. Channels are a standard phenomenon in most Hawaii surf breaks. The channel is the easiest way back to the lineup. Also, know where is the best point to enter and exit the water. Maui’s coastlines are not always sandy, so know how to enter and exit before paddling out.
Be sure to fuel up before paddling out. This means drinking a lot of water and consuming adequate calories. Water sports consume more calories than most land sports. It’s also a great idea to warm up before your session. In every sport, athletes warm up before their competition. Thus, you should as well. Besides increasing your surfing performance, warming up prior to paddling out also prevents injuries. Fewer injuries will allow you to keep doing what you love!
Know Your Equipment
When packing up for your surf mission, be sure to double check your equipment. Key things I check: fin screws and leash tares. If fins and leash are not up to snuff, one bad wipeout will make you kiss your board goodbye. You will you be swimming to fetch your board and your board could potentially be damaged. Also, your board could seriously injure someone in the lineup.
Are You Using the Right Stuff?
One final question to ask yourself before loading up a board: “is my board the right board for today’s conditions?” So you’ve done your homework and you checked the surf reports, the buoys, and the wind charts? Now you are looking at your 6’6” and asking “will this board be good for 1-2’ Launiupoko?”
If the answer is no so go pick a different board. At Launiupoke, I’d go for a longboard. Same could be said about the wind. Is my kite the right size kit for the wind or will I be overpowered?
Know Where the Lifeguards are Stationed
For extra peace of mind, you may venture to a beach where the County of Maui has stationed Lifeguards. For a list of what beaches have lifeguards, view our other post:
Mahalo for Reading
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into ensuring you have a safe experience at our Maui beaches. If you practice these steps every time you go to the beach, you and those around you will be safe and live to enjoy another day in paradise. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our trained staff. They’ll be happy to guide you to the right location to find your fun safely.
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