Surfing in dangerous conditions is a right of passage here in florida. As to the waves have never gotten life threatening in my opinion there are definitely times where you are debating whether you should be out or not. The most common enemy in our battles are the strong rip currents that line the beaches whenever the swell tops an eight foot windswell. Some things to consider before paddling out in these conditions is how to see and recognise the dangerous waters and how to stay safe whilst surfing our waters.
How a rip current forms is quite simple, a majority of people have no idea how a rip actually forms and claim they can spot one, but in reality only about 70 percent of people can actually spot one. The current forms when water comes onto the shore from the ocean and the water really has nowhere to go. Therefore, the water finds deeper channels along the beach and since more water can fit there that is where the water flows out to sea and sometimes dangerously fast. Generally there is one main rip every 100 yards or so on the beach that is fed by smaller feeder rips, on rare occasion these feeder rips make somewhat of a point break so surfers can be sucked out after coming off a feeder, and into the larger rip current. Some signs of rip currents are areas of water that are not as foamy as the rest, waves not breaking there, or even some sandy discolored water displaced out beyond the breakers. It is important to recognise these three basic signs of rip currents because the currents may “pick and choose” whichever one, or three they want to follow, so always be on the lookout for any of those.
Us all being surfers, I can guarantee most all of us know this information inside and out. But this is for mainly the beginners because anyone that didn’t know this information before, now does know. So it’s worth it. Continuing on; we are seriously blessed for the invention of leashes. These things save surfers lives on the regular. We may not know it but that time you took off on the first wave of a hurricane swell set… your leash kept you alive, and gave you something to float on. So always keep them in tip top shape, you never know when you’ll need them most.
During the Hurricane Jose swell, my leash was cut by my fin all the way through on the outside. I can tell you first hand, that was the longest swim I have ever had to do in my life. The second and almost as important as the leash, is to know your limits. There’s that saying “when in doubt, don’t go out”, and I think this is very important. I had some close calls when i was way small paddling out in surf wayyy bigger than I could possibly surf, then getting out there, and choking because these mountains of water are terrifying me. If you know you’re limits and always use a leash, I guarantee you will never come close to death in our neck of the woods.
Florida surfing is all about making the best out of nothing. Sometimes it means paddling out in possibly dangerous conditions. Remember to always scan and recognise the conditions, know your limits “if in doubt, don’t go out”, respect our platonic mother.. The ocean. I had a little “ritual” so to say everytime i paddle out in bigger surf, i suggest you try it. If you are religious at all, do the sign of the cross and flick the water out of respect for God, then right after you flick the water take a scoop of ocean water and swallow if out of respect for the ocean. Both will watch after you when surfing.
Blog Written By Team Rider Nathaniel Mauldin
Edited By David Pritzker
Photos By Kan Quong