I say NO surfing in these conditions and So You Should Too

Lightening can be dangerous for surfers

Improving your surfing skills is most effectively achieved by hitting the surf as frequently as possible, regardless of the conditions. Nevertheless, there are situations when it’s advisable to steer clear of surfing. Presented below are nine instances to consider.

  1. Chance of Thunder/Lightening
    • This is an absolute no-go when it comes to surfing.
    • While uncommon, there have been instances of surfers and beachgoers being struck by lightning while engaging in water activities or strolling along the shore.
    • Lightning tends to target the highest points, and at times, you might find yourself at the highest point in the vicinity, especially when in the ocean.
  2. After and During Heavy Rain
    • Following a heavy downpour, untreated water, along with regular rainwater runoff from roads, may find its way into the ocean, contributing to heightened water pollution levels.
    • Many cities routinely disclose the current water pollution levels, so be sure to check before heading out for a surf session.
    • Some may dismiss the concern, claiming they won’t ingest the water. However, remember that your eyes provide a direct pathway for polluted water to enter your body. It’s not worth the risk.
  3. During an event or competition.
    • Each beach has its unique characteristics, but typically, they organize surfing competitions for their board-riding community members.
    • While public beaches are open spaces, showing respect for the local community is crucial, enabling them to engage in what holds significance for them.
    • These events often have a longstanding tradition spanning generations.
    • Moreover, it’s not limited to just surfing; there could also be Ironman races, swimming competitions, and surf lifesaving events.
  4. Big day
    • This is subjective. Each person has their own threshold, and tolerance for risk differs. Not all 4-foot waves are equal, and their danger level isn’t solely determined by size. It hinges on wave shape, frequency, and power.
    • I’ve established my own guidelines for tackling larger waves. I don’t expect you to adopt them, but I hope they offer some perspective, especially if you’re a novice surfer. See below for my suggestions.
    • How to plan the big day.
      • Watch.
        • I take more time than usual before heading out. I sit closer to the ocean to assess the size more accurately. I observe the frequency of waves in a set, their proximity, and also note how often the sets arrive and the direction they break.
        • On bigger days, the current tends to be stronger. I pay close attention to the direction in which surfers are being pulled.
      • Prepare the way out.
        • If the waves get too big, I have an exit strategy in mind before paddling out. This typically involves paddling toward the shore while constantly watching the waves, allowing them to carry me back gradually.
        • On some beaches, there are designated exit routes. For instance, at Freshwater Beach in Sydney, a rock platform can be utilized if you find yourself in a difficult situation and struggle to get out of the surf. You can paddle towards the rock pool, find a spot between the rocks to climb up and exit with only a few scratches and a dinged board.
      • Only surf with a lifeguard on duty.
        • I am NOT asking you to put yourself in danger and ask for help when you cannot help yourself. You should be in charge of your safety at all times.
        • However, things can often deviate from your expectations, and you might find yourself in a precarious situation quickly. Therefore, if you’re tackling big waves for the first time, opting to go to the beach with an experienced lifeguard can be a safer choice.
      • Opt for larger and longer boards:
        • When facing large waves, it becomes challenging to paddle into them, and having every inch of the board at your disposal is crucial. A longer board with greater volume enhances your paddle speed, allowing you to catch waves earlier and swiftly navigate out of potentially hazardous situations.
      • Stick with old and faithful
        • Avoid experimenting with a new board or leash in those conditions. Having complete trust in your equipment is crucial, allowing you to concentrate solely on catching and riding waves. Ensure you have your reliable board ready. You don’t want any self-doubt when it’s crucial.
      • Have a Good Sleep the night before
        • The most crucial piece of equipment in surfing is you. Make sure you have replenished your energy before paddling out. Your paddle or swimming endurance is crucial when you are in a challenging situation.
  5. Sunset.
    • It’s not about sharks. The majority of shark attacks occur during daylight hours. The concern arises because you might be the last person in the ocean, and no one knows you’re in distress. Beaches at night are usually very dark and noisy due to the crashing waves. It’s nearly impossible to spot or hear someone in the darkness of night.
    • During my early days of learning to surf, I encountered a situation. My arms were so worn out that I couldn’t paddle any further. The darkness was absolute, making it impossible to discern the rips, and I felt my efforts were futile. Thankfully, a female surfer noticed me and came to my rescue, pulling me out of the surf. The sensation of solid ground beneath me brought immense relief.
  6. Strong current.
    • The strength of the current doesn’t always correlate with wave size. There are days when weak waves accompany a solid current and vice versa.
    • This relationship is highly influenced by location. For instance, North Narrabeen in Sydney typically experiences a stronger current than neighbouring beaches with similar wave sizes.
    • When a strong current starts to pull you, it’s not conducive to relaxation or watching yourself drift away. Take the time to observe the surf conditions before diving in, so you’re aware of what you’re facing.
    • You may want to consult the local lifeguard regarding the current patterns and adjust your actions accordingly.
  7. Hot Summer days.
    • This is entirely a personal choice. I don’t enjoy walking on scorching sand and sitting under the blazing sun for two hours. I prefer going early or later in the afternoon when it’s a bit cooler.
    • If you’re surfing in an area with intense UV exposure, like Australia, it’s crucial to have ample sunscreen to shield yourself.
    • If you need to surf, there are effective ways to safeguard your skin:
      • Surf Hat
      • Sunglasses
      • Sunscreen: waterproof sunscreen + zinc-based for physical block
      • Rashguard/wetsuit.
    • Read here for a detailed guide to how to protect yourself from the sun.


My name is James, the person behind SurifngHeadquaters.com. With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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