Surfing in Harms Way.....................

Surfing, even in small one or two foot surf, DOES put you in harms way.        The degree will vary,  depending on wave size.        But the real risk to you, are the other ill prepared people that populate the lineups today, as you attempt to have a pleasant surfing experience.     How do you deal with it?     Have you had any serious injuries while in the water?    Has anyone else ever injured you, as a result of their stupidity in the water?   

I’m sure I’ll get some flak for this, and I deserve it, so its ok.

I was very new to the sport, and didn’t really have anyone around me who really knew what they were doing, just one or two kooks who thought they knew. On my 3rd day in San Diego, armed with a 7’10" funshape, I was brought to Blacks Beach on a solid chest high day. Luckily it was mid-day and mid-week, so there weren’t too many people there. I paddled into a wave I had no busines being on, and right before I got sucked over the falls, I ditched my board off to my right out of pure fear. The wave actually pushed the board down below me, underwater, and then the board turned sidways, and the rail came back and cracked me right between the eyes, splitting the skin, and gave me a nice 2 inch Harry Potter style gash between my eyebrows. I tried to play it off, but then when I paddled back out, my buddy pointed out I had a lot of blood on my face, and I might need stitches.


Very embarrassed I walked back up to my car and went home to clean myself up and check to see if I would need stitches.


A year and a half later, I am much more honest with myself about my abilities, I keep a very smart crew around me and listen to everything they have to say about different breaks, where I should go, and where i should wait to surf, and just try to take time to really learn each break, and pay attention to the people around me.

I got hurt the worst alone during dawn patrol, RAT beach in the So. Bay. Nice rib high left, catch a rail, get pitched, board somehow turned on me and catches me in the mouth. OUCH! Didn’t give it too much thought until all this red stuff showed up on my board as I paddled back out. Put my hand to it and sure enough, my bottom teeth went all the way through my upper chin/lower mouth. As I got to the top at the parking lot at Malaga School, my buddies were just showing up and just stood there with their mouths open for a bit. One gave me a little first aid and by the time I got to the ER at Torrance Memorial the inside of my mouth had already started healing. The Doc put a little super glue and a bandage on the outside and said “See ya”. Also caught a fin in the thigh once (also alone} and the scar remains,

**Living on the east coast we deal with small designated surfing beaches during the summer. You can have 70 surfers crammed into an area the size of a football field. Of the 70 perhaps 10 have the basics mastered. There is a lot of carnage. I couldn’t tell you how many boards I’ve had to repair in my household. **

 The most infuriating one recently was a guy on a log with no leash who I blew the takeoff on a waist high day and his 25 pound board cartwheeled right into my 10 year old.  Was so lucky my son wasn’t badly hurt.  It took a lot of fortitude for me not to physically assault the guy in front of my son.  I gave him a verbal lashing and told him to leave which he did.  Sorry but people who cant make an easy takeoff on a log in waist high waves and can’t control their board have no business surfing around other people without a leash.

My incident happened about 15 years ago.It was a summer day and the surf was small locally (cen.coast cal) & my surf buddy & I decided to road trip down to Rincon. It was a fun day with probably about waist to almost chest high sets. I had just ridden a wave and was paddling back out & looked up to  see a small boy on a long board heading right towards me and screaming to look out. Barely had time to jump off board & dive. Came up & his fin had impaled my board about mid rail. It dug into the rail ~3". I swear it looked like someone had chopped the rail of my board with an axe. While I was pissed, I couldn’t really scream at a small boy & he was shook up telling me this was only his second time out.

My day was done. On the drive home, I was thinking about what it would have done had it hit me like it hit my board.

From the beginning I have always surfed the out of the way spots. To me, surfing is about escaping. Leaving the terra firma and haveing a different perspective. To this day I find it very difficult to surf around others…drop ins and Kuk behavior. Although there have been plenty of go outs with guys unknown to me and had a real blast at various places. But one time surfing with someone else maybe saved me from danger. I used to surf Kawela Bay alot when the crowd level increased at the best breaks. One early morning, paddled out and was getting some fun waves when three guys come out. I’m thinking eff it, I’ll stick to myself and paddle further up. They came out and set up right where I had been. We didn’t speak but they waved hello. After letting them get the better waves I started to paddle back toward them when they all start yelling TIGAH. My thick head is thinking, what?? Then one yells MANO and I look back and there it is. Like a torpedo. Luckily, there was white water that I caught into the rocks just making it in time. Scared the sh%^ out of me. This tiger was eight feet long and not going anywhere. I walked up to those guys with big mahalos and bought them Ono plates for chow. We became great friends and at times, workmates. What if they didn’t come out like I was trying to will them too? Pau.

So far

 8 stitches from kicking board out on close out, board 180 To landing on quad fins to legs .Cut up suit and kept surfing for 1/2 hour till I noticed blood.

Broke finger while grabbing tail of longboard and wave yank board and sandwiched finger.i stepped on leash as wave pulled  (weird)

Almost died on 12’ + nor cal bomb breaking 10’ in front of me and snapped leash and got held down 2 more bombs. 2001 Xmas SF quit for 6 years after that…

Kook on blue arrow ditched in front of me and luckily blocked with arms,bruised up but got a sorry bro/ stink eye to him


Talk about this all the time in the water. We live in a different world. I fully understand how Miki Dora felt after his beloved Malibu was over run by people wanting to be “surfers”. I have childhood friends who we all looked up to as the rippers, but never surf anymore. They had their time at the top, and walked away.

I try to sit on the outside and wait, off to the side or just stay about 10 yards away from the nearest person. With that buffer zone, I can go after waves I know others won’t get, or I can sit comfortaby knowing I am not in the way. Sometimes you can’t get away from others, they see you getting waves and they paddle close to you hoping to position themselves to get the next one. It can bring out a dark side, but I always pray before I go out and ask for help to keep me safe and stay positive.

There’s a whole group that purposely sit in the way hoping to block others, and then take the wave. I have no problems hitting them with my board, or bailing out and letting my board clean them up if they insist on doing that. Compsands can do a lot of damage to a modern high performance board. 4 or 5 layers of glass on the rail will do the same. I haven’t, but I know guys who will tell you to go in if your are being an ass. We haven’t done it recently, but we did yell at assholes a few years ago. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore, but when you get told to go in, you best listen.

As far as getting hurt, my biggest problem is trying to do what my body can and not what what mind says to do. At 57, I’m not as felixible, quick, or strong as I was. I tend to stay out until I’m drained, and often get hurt on the last wave I plan on riding. I’ve also gotten hurt “going for it” like a kid a third my age. Getting bounced around, and a cut on the foot from the reef is a part of surfing. If that bothers you, best to stay on the beach.

Yes.  And yes.

we all are on a learning curve. If it is huge and you are out thumbs up brother. Might be dereck dorner of dickweed dumbshit. You had the balls to paddle out, good on you. Stay out of my way and I will stay out of yours. Pretty easy rules to follow. If you are willing to walk 10 minutes or paddle 20 minutes you can surf by yourself on the ns or west side any day it is big or small.  big wave size is the best enforcer of  alleged surfing rules. 

Surprisingly I have only ever been injured via self inflicted means. fin chops, board to head, reef to head/body and knee ligaments.

Considering this is where I surf most (snapper rocks) I have been blessed not to be run over at least once.

Had some close calls though. it pays to paddle out really wide to avoid the sweep and crowds or do the run around and jump off the rock to the inside position.

When its good there are lots of collisions. The local emergency dept hates it when the surf is good. The local ding repairers love it.

The worst bit has to be waiting your turn for a set and you swing around and you see 500 sets of eyes either in the way or wishing you fall off.



My worst was a small day at Waikiki. I’d just gotten back on island from finishing high school in Colorado and was still new to surfing. Don’t know what happened, but I came to in the water surrounded by other surfers. I believe someone’s board hit me in the back of the head. Nobody paddled in with me and my brother found me wandering the beach. I didn’t know what day it was, or how long we had been back in Hawaii. Luckily there was no lasting damage, just a sore neck. 

A good friend of mine had a longboard land on the back of his neck. It was from a Japanese tourist who didn’t know how to surf. My friend was knocked out and luckily people nearby reacted instantly to save him. A lifeguard on a jetski was cruising by and took over. By the time they got him to the beach, the ambulance was waiting. That incident cost my friend a couple of days and over a thousand dollars in hospital fees. He never found out who the other guy was.

I was going down the line on my big yellow 10footer at pops, and had someone drop right on the front of my board. Luckily didn’t get hurt and kept on going, just noticed a large impression on the nose. 

Also was out on a nice size day out there, and someone dropped in on a friend of my friend’s son, about 12ish. Sliced the rail about 4inches in clean through the board. Would have chopped off a limb. 

Most of my stupidity happens by myself on waves no one else surfs, on smaller days. They are normally closeouts but fun for a drop. Last time I busted my nose and was bleeding pretty bad, but it clogged up soon enough, and luckily it wasnt tiger shark season, so kept on surfing. I push myself harder, and am less selective on waves on smaller days where noone else is around. 


I haven’t surfed a primary peak on SC’s East Side during a swell forecast by Surfline to be over 4 feet, other than just before sunset when the people thin out for the last 15 or 20 minutes, in years.

The main peaks would be good and “worth it” a good 300 days a year, here, if not for the crowds.  To me, they’re unsurfable at least 200 days a year, purely due to quality-per-capita (aka peace of mind) ratios being undoable.  There’s the safety issue, and then there’s the problem that crowds of kooks nowadays are all on foamies and longboards.

The one useful thing I have to say:  I do kick people off peaks I’m on, during swells, when I manage to get a crappy one to myself.  The key is to tell them to go away while, in their minds, they’re still “paddling out.”  Once they’re out, you’ve got a bitchy kook on your hands who has no idea why you would possibly want them gone, or why it’s impossible for you to surf with them (since, after all, they are just fine trying to paddle around you all day, and be in the way on every wave, when there’s only two of you).  If you tell them to go away before they “make it out,” they usually will just go away, hating you, and probably avoid you next time if they see you.  Works for me.

I was lucky it wasn’t worse, and that my brother was on the beach. We drove over to the old Kaiser hospital they eventually blew up and I checked out fine. Hurt for two weeks till y friend did some massage magic. 

I had an early lesson in not paddling out behind someone at at Threes. We both tried to duck under and he got pushed back into me. His fin went about 4 inches into my rail right above where my hand was. Didn’t do that again. 

The day after the Japanese Tsunami a few years back, there was a good groundswell running, but anywhere that was NOT closing out was so ridiculously and overwhelmingly crowded, and dangerous, that I decided to just go surf a heaving closeout instead, and just pull in and get worked.


One wave I drove right into the foamball on a wave barrelling at me, and went into full crash position, Arms over my head.


Somehow my ~14LB HWS got right in between my two elbows, and smashed my Nose.  I never realized that one does in fact see stars when hit that hard in the head.


I never saw so much blood come from my body before.  When I got to the sand a lady and young daughter started screaming and ran away from me.  My skull had punctured the skin where the cartilage begins on the nose, and there was a scratched impression of my skull on the rail of my board too, but no real ding that needed repair.  I think if a foam board hit me just like that, the fiberglass would have tore open my skin.

I irrigated the cut on the side of my nose with my ear drops(50/50 Distilled white vinegar and 91% isopropyl alcohol) when I got back to my vehicle.

It could have used a few stitches, but I just protected it for the 5 days it took to scab over and mend and it healed cleanly and there is little trace of a scar.  I was definitely concussed.  I got an ice pack from a lifeguard tower and found it difficult to actually answer their questions, and form the words I was trying to say.

worst was a broken ankle hitting backwash on the way down from an airdrop

other people are usually not too much of a problem - if you are paying attention you can get out of the way

Hi Bill.  I think your original question delt with ill prepared people in the water and injury.  I won’t bore anyone with my surfing injuries. All pretty minor and only one required surgery.  But, the people who I try to avoid are the ones who came to surfing later in life, have been surfing 2 or 3 years, and are just good enough to be dangerous.  On a longboard, poor wave judgement, poor control of board, no regard for other’s, no surf socialization or wave etiquette.  I just try to avoid them as best I can.  I call them “drunk drivers.”  Mike