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How to stay safe when you surf

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The chance to get attacked by a shark and 5 real threats in the water
By Vera Schemainda.

Well, surfing is just like any other sport. You can hurt yourself but there are also many things you can do to prevent to put yourself in any kind of danger.  There are different threats in the ocean, some are more likely to occur others are a geographical issue or can be seen as obstacles which are driven by fear, insecurity and unawareness. Therefore, we want to provide you all the knowledge to surf safe forever.

1.- Sharks 

 Who doesn’t know this deep fear when you enter the sea and you don’t know what will be under the surface? The unknown can be very scary. There are parts of the world where the probability to meet a shark is much higher, such as Australia, South Africa, parts in Brazil or California. The stunning island of La Réunion (located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar) for example is facing a real shark plague. At some beaches even swimming is not allowed anymore, surfing not even to imagine. Still some surfers don’t mind about this and still enter the water for their perfect wave, which resulted in a comparatively high amount of attacks (the likelihood of being attacked is said to be around 1000 times higher compared to a beach in Australia). Unfortunately, this development is rumored to be a man-made problem due to overfishing, marine pollution and fish farms.

With regard to Costa da Caparica in Portugal, we can tell you that the probability of being attacked by a shark is almost not existent. There have been 0 shark attacks in Portugal, only a few in the Mediterranean Sea.  

But since we know that surfers love to travel the world we wanted to talk about this very popular “threat” which is more hyped by the media and adventurous storytelling. Before getting killed by a shark it´s more likely to die from fireworks or a lightning strike. On the other hand, more than 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year.

If you want to know more about this follow @oceanramsey. This impressive marine biologist dedicated her life to the ocean and sharks. She is freediving with Great White Sharks which are up to 20 feet long (around 6 meters), showing the world that sharks are beautiful creatures. According to her, in case you will ever meet a shark, you should do the following:

  1. Look at it
  2. Face it
  3. Glance around for other sharks as it approaches
  4. Slowly back away and extend any object  towards it

So, if you see one on your board, leave your board, stay calm, think of Ocean Ramsey and enjoy the encounter.

 

2.- Rip Currents – Threat and blessing

 Rip currents can be a big threat if you don’t know them and at the same time a great pleasure and absolutely harmless if you know them. It’s basically water moving back to the sea, after it got pushed towards the shore in forms of waves, breaking over sandbars when the water gets shallower. These currents, or so-called channels, appear next to breaking waves. The water in this currents might look a bit rippled, untidy and with another water colour.

Unexperienced swimmers or surfers often expect them to be safer, due to the fact that the water looks calmer. If you are stuck in a current the water will take you a bit outside and you might not be able to paddle or swim back from this spot. But don´t worry, it will stop and then you will be able to get back to the shore from another position, where the waves are breaking. If you find yourself in a current you need to stay calm, let it happen. Danger occurs if surfers start to panic, jump from their board and try to swim against the current. If you get more experienced in surfing you will be able to use these channels to get to the line-up without fighting against the waves. During Gota d’Água  surf lessons you can always ask to our experienced instructors who can show you currents, and if you join a new surf spot don´t hesitate to ask another surfer to feel more confident about it. 

3.- Yourself

It’s very important when you learn to surf to know how to protect yourself. First of all, always start with a warm-up to prepare your body and your muscles for your surf session. Our lessons always start with a complete full-body work out. Whilst surfing or more precisely if you jump or fall from your board: Always protect your head with your arms to prevent to get kissed by your board or your fins! This is an easy but very important rule! Last but not least: always check your surf gear before your surf session. Your leash should be in a good condition and fixed correctly. 

5.- The Crowds

If you share your waves with other surfers always be aware of the rules in the water. Priorities exist, and you can check it in our Gota d’Àgua surf code on our Instagram. If you have any doubts, you can always ask our Gota d´Àgua Surf School instructors. 

Still, some people do not know about these rules, or they don ́t mind or they feel that they have the “right” as a local to take the wave before you. In these cases, we recommend you to forget about your priority and just let it go, in order not to crash with another surfer. The wiser head gives in.

6.- Other potentially dangerous sea creatures

Well, there are some other animals that could harm you in the oceans all over the world just like seals, snakes, urchins, stingrays, crocodiles (take care of river mouth in regions like Sri Lanka) and jellyfish. Luckily you will be only confronted with jellyfish from time to time at the Costa da Caparica, so you don’t have to worry. First of all, you will most likely wear a wetsuit (yes, these are the positive aspects of a wetsuit) and secondly: they are not dangerous here.

We hope we could assure you that you can surf safely and especially at the Costa da Caparica you will be able to surf careless without real dangers. During your time in our surf camp we will prepare you well for your future adventures and teach you everything you need to know to be a happy and healthy surfer.    

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