Book Review: Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook

Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook

Authors: Andrew Nathanson,MD, Clayton Everline, MD, Mark Renneker, MD

Amazon: $7.95 paperback

A little over a week ago, I found myself in the surf with a pretty serious laceration to the leg, caused by the rebounding fin of my 10’6″, 30 inch wide paddle surfboard. If you’ve spent any time on a paddle surfboard, or even if you haven’t, chances are you understand that the fins on our boards can cause damage. I wanted to know more about how those injuries can occur and what one can do to better protect themselves from getting hurt in the line up.  I ran across this excellent handbook by three doctors who surf.

If you paddle surf, prone surf, OC or surf ski surf, boogie board or body surf, or if you paddle in the ocean, you owe it to yourself to pick this book up.  Maybe get the digital version and have it handy on your phone.

While focused mostly on prone surfing, the authors point out that the safety and first aid for sup surfing is the same, if not intensified by the fact paddle surf boards are larger and thus can inflict more injury and that the paddle also adds an element of potential danger when a paddler is getting tossed around in the surf zone.

Rather than simply a how to guide on dealing with lacerations, stings and bites and injury prevention, Surf Survival also is a primer on waves and wave formation, offering great information on the science of waves and catching them.  There is information on how to deal with injuries while traveling and there’s even a section on fitness, which since the book was published back in 2011, might have been handy then, but if you want the sup fitness bible, you need to get Suzie Cooney’s book instead.

The main reason for adding this volume to your paddling library is for the first aid. Remember, these three authors are medical doctors who do what we do, and they offer up their knowleg in a compact, easy to find, easy to read format.

You’ll learn how to determine if that cut is serious enough to call 9-1-1 (if it’s not obvious, like mine was, and that can happen!), what to do about it before EMS arrives, and how to take care of it afterward or if you are traveling in a place where medical care might not be all that.  Dislocations, animal stings, coral reef rash….it’s all  in there. And there is detailed information on what kinds of surf zone injuries are most common and why, and how to avoid them. There is a great discussion on the use of rubber fins and even helmets and it is chock a block full of tips like how to care for your leash and even tie it in properly. Things we might not even think about but could prevent a catastrophe at the beach.

And there is even a section on sup surfing, which, again since it was published six years ago, might need a bit of a update, but there’s great advice on how to use your paddle to your advantage and not get hurt by it when you’ve wiped out.

Surf Survival: The Surfer's Health Handbook

Their advice to respect the ocean is most prominent and that was one of the reasons I was impressed with this book.  It also has a great swim “test” section to make sure your swimming skills are appropriate for the surf zone.   I ordered both the digital and paperback version of this book so that it will always be nearby in case of emergency.  But that said, nothing can take the place of training.  If you are a paddler, no matter whether you surf, cruise flatwater or love to downwind, nothing can take the place of good first aid training from an organization like the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  

Consider getting first aid training. It just might save your life or the life of your buddy.



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