What Happens When Surfers Fall Off Their Boards?

Falling while surfing is an inevitable part of the sport. Whether a beginner or seasoned pro, every surfer gets dumped off their board at some point riding waves. While it may seem simple, there are techniques and physics involved in how surfers fall into the water and recover. Understanding the process helps new riders know what to expect when the inevitable wipeout happens.

Why Do Surfers Fall?

There are several common reasons for falling:

  • Losing balance when standing up
  • Missing a wave catch
  • Nose-diving the board
  • Getting caught off guard by a section
  • Losing edge control when turning
  • Wiping out on big waves

No surfer is immune to falling. It happens to everyone in all conditions.

How Do Surfers Fall?

When a fall begins, a few techniques help surfers exit gracefully:

  • Letting go of board to avoid leash pulls or board strikes
  • Pushing board away to keep separated
  • Arching back to fall clear of board and waves
  • Covering head with hands to protect on impact
  • Relaxing muscles to avoid resisting crash

Safely falling clears you from the board and minimizes hazards.


Hitting the water can involve:

  • Plunging underwater as surface tension breaks
  • Salt water rushing up nose and into sinuses
  • Cool temperature shocking the body
  • Surfboard leash yanking ankle or leg
  • Tumbling and somersaulting underwater

It’s an quick chaotic submersion into the sea.

Underwater Turbulence

Once underwater, surfers experience:

  • Disorientation as up/down perspectives spin
  • Ears plugged by pressure changes
  • Nose and eyes stung by salty water
  • Tossed and spun by wave turbulence
  • Leash keeping attached to board throughout

It’s a washing machine-style spin cycle under the waves.

Surfacing and Exit

To exit a wipeout, surfers:

  • Swim upwards until breaching surface
  • Clear sinuses of water by exhaling hard
  • Take breaths between waves smashing down
  • Lift arms to find board still attached by leash
  • Use board as flotation aid until able to remount

Escaping safely is the priority after falling.

Physical Impacts

Common injuries from wipeouts include:

  • Scrapes from sand or reef contact
  • Bruises from board or seabed collisions
  • Strains from overextending joints
  • Fatigue from endure multiple falls
  • Cuts from contact with fins or board rails
  • Concussions if head slammed into hard objects

Surfers develop tolerance for wipeout bumps and bruises over time.

Psychological Response

Mentally, falling causes:

  • Frustration or discouragement from mistakes
  • Fear and anxiety in big surf or shallow water
  • Relief once safely surfaced without major injury
  • Laughter at the funky tumble just endured
  • Motivation to get back out and catch more waves

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions before, during and after falls.

Techniques to Avoid Falls

Surfing skill development helps prevent wipeouts by:

  • Improving balance and board control
  • Wave positioning and reading abilities
  • Technique paddle strength
  • Wave catching and takeoff timing
  • Controlling speed and direction

But ultimately, some falling is inevitable for all surfers.

Recovery and Continuation

After wipeouts, surfers:

  • Catch breath and regain bearings
  • Ascend leash to return to board
  • Calmly resurface avoiding panic
  • Let go of frustration or ego over fall
  • Paddle back out enthusiasm intact

With perseverance, surfers bounce back to keep chasing more waves.

Examples of Spectacular Falls

Despite best efforts, sometimes falls happen in dramatic fashion:

  • Flying over the falls of towering waves
  • Bool whipped into a full front flip
  • Slipping off the top of the board on a drop
  • Cartwheeling in the barrel upside down
  • Leash wraps sending surfers spinning

Crashes in surfing can be as exhilarating as the rides.

Why Falling is Part of Surfing

Wipeouts remind us:

  • No surfer is exempt from falling
  • Crashing helps recalibrate overconfidence
  • Fear of falling inhibits progression
  • There are lessons in every mishap
  • Humility and patience lead to growth

Falling fuels progression on the winding path to surf mastery.

So next time you take a tumble, remember it’s an inevitable encounter on the road to surf improvement. As the saying goes, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough!” Just shake it off and paddle back out for more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surfers Falling

How do you fall off a surfboard safely?

Push the board away, cover your head, relax muscles, and fall sideways to avoid direct impact. Also release the board to prevent leash pulls.

What causes most falls in surfing?

Loss of balance, slipping on takeoff, poor wave judgment, inadequate technique, and wiping out on bigger surf are the most common fall causes.

Do experienced surfers fall as much as beginners?

Yes, while less frequent, advanced surfers still wipeout on occasion. No surfer, no matter the skill level, is immune to an occasional fall.

How do you clear your sinuses after a surf wipeout?

Exhale forcefully through your nose and blow out each nostril individually to purge any water trapped inside after a surf dunk.

Can you get knocked unconscious when you fall surfing?

It’s possible depending on various factors. Direct head strikes, extended hold downs, and shallow reef collisions can lead to momentary loss of consciousness in big surf.

Why is saltwater so painful in the eyes and nose after surfing wipeouts?

The high saline concentration irritates mucous membranes. Surfers become adapted to the stinging sensations over time.

Can you avoid a wipeout by bailing your board?

Sometimes yes. Pushing or abandoning your board before impact may prevent falling. But this risks the board striking others, so only bail when completely clear.

Should you wear head protection if afraid of surfing wipeout injuries?

Soft-shell helmets provide an option if concerned about collisions. But learning safe falling technique and building confidence is typically preferred.

By understanding what happens when you take a tumble, you can stay safe and keep charging after surfing wipeouts! Cowabunga!

Leave a Comment