Is Learning to Surf Safe?

Is Learning to Surf Safe?

Safety is always the major focus of people, being concerned about how safe an activity is or how dangerous it is to do something. Of course, we all have to be conscious and aware of this as no one wants to be injured or hurt either temporarily or permanently. The important thing for us all to do is to minimise the risks and make decisions that maximise our safety and well being.

In everything we do, there is always a risk and danger of something whether it is riding a bike, being on a bus, driving a car or scooty or walking along the road to the general store. Driving on or even being in a vehicle on Indian Roads itself is a major danger with the craziness of the traffic and some peoples driving, especially those that don’t understand the rules and ways of driving on our roads here. Watch out anyone who messes with the Express Buses on the roads and slows them down!!

In surfing at all levels and stages of development, whether someone is a beginner or a full-time professional surfing athlete, there can also be risks and potential hazards. Like anything we need to look at ways, we can minimise these dangers.

When you are learning to surf, the only way you should contemplate doing this is by using a professional surf school where you know you will be taught by a qualified professional and experienced surf instructor. A professional and experienced surf instructor understands the dangers and understands the risks. Working in a professional surf school, the instructor and the surf school should have Risk Assessments and Risk Management Plans in place to maximise people’s safety and minimise their dangers and risks.

In India, there is a large percentage of the population that do not have much ocean and water experience and skills and there is often a lack of basic swimming ability.

Is it okay for someone who has never been in the ocean or surf before and cannot swim to learn to surf?Absolutely – if you are using a professional surf school with professional experienced surf instructors. When you are learning, you should always be in water that is shallow where you can stand up. Generally, this is about thigh to waist deep water. You should initially be taught on the sand and given basic instructions on the sand before getting into the water. Your equipment should include a learn to surf soft board with a leash attached and your instructor should be with you in the water teaching you how to do things.

When you are looking for a surf school to learn with or do lessons at, you should ask these questions

  • Are your Surf Instructors internationally qualified with the International Surfing Association?
  • Do all the Surf Instructors also have Lifeguard, First Aid and Emergency Care training and qualifications?
  • Are these qualifications current and up to date or have they expired?
  • Is the surf school and are the surf instructors experienced in teaching surfing?
  • Does the Surf School have a Comprehensive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan?
  • What are some of the procedures the Surf School has in place to minimise risks and maximise people’s safety?
  • Does the surf school follow internationally recognised and accepted operational procedures?
  • Does the surf school use the safe equipment?
  • Is there a maximum ratio of students to instructors that the surf school follows?

If you do not get satisfactory answers and confident responses from the surf school or instructor, you might be best looking for another surf school or another instructor to be taught by. Below are some answers to questions that you should be expecting to the above questions.

1. Are your Surf Instructors internationally qualified with the International Surfing Association?

All Professional Surf Instructors should be qualified International Surfing Association* (ISA) Level 1 Surf Instructors as a minimum. If there are ISA Level 2 Surf Instructors in the surf school, this is even better as they should have a far greater amount of experience, knowledge and understanding of teaching and training surfers from beginners all the way through to high-performance surfing. Qualified ISA Surf Instructors have been taught and trained in risk management and safety, correct teaching methodology, correct technique and trained to maximise safety and minimise risks when teaching.

2. Do all the Surf Instructors also have Lifeguard, First Aid and Emergency Care training and qualifications?

To be a qualified ISA Surf Instructor, all instructors must also have a Surf Rescue Qualification, basic lifeguard training and be trained in basic first aid and emergency care. This assists Surf Instructors with their knowledge and understanding of risk management and minimising dangers as well as enabling them to hopefully be proactive in stopping incidents occurring or being able to respond to any incidents if they do occur in a proper correct manner.

3. Are these qualifications current and up to date or have they expired?

It is vital that all professional Surf Instructors keep all their qualifications current. As standard practices can sometimes change, it is important that all instructors know of any changes that may have taken place but also it is necessary to continually do updates and reminders to ensure that instructors remember and are proficient in their skills and knowledge and don’t forget the correct procedures and way of doing things.

4. Is the surf school and are the surf instructors experienced in teaching surfing?

Experience is as important as qualifications. Until someone has had experience, even though they may have qualifications, there can still be a large potential margin of error. Ideally, a surf school should be headed up and operated by an experienced owner/manager who oversees any other instructors working for the school. This enables the less experienced instructors to be guided by and have extra on the job training by working with and listening to a more experienced Head Instructor. The more experienced someone is, generally the much better understanding, knowledge and ability to read and manage conditions and therefore the greater the safety the surf school and instructors should be able to provide.

5. Does the Surf School have a Comprehensive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan?

As part of the basic Business Documentation, every professional surf school should have a comprehensive set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Normal Operating Procedures (NOPs). This sets out basic operating procedures and how the surf school and all lessons can be run to maximise safety, reduce dangers and hazards and run a safe successful operation.

6. What are some of the procedures the Surf School has in place to minimise risks and maximise people’s safety?

To maximise safety a surf school should have a comprehensive set of SOPs/NOPs. This should cover procedures such as only fully qualified ISA surf instructors teach lessons, safe appropriate equipment is used, there are comprehensive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plans in place to ensure conditions are safe and any prevailing hazards are minimised, there is a maximum number of surfers in each lesson and other such practices to ensure everyone is safe.

7. Does the surf school follow internationally recognised and accepted operational procedures?

While surfing and surf schools are only very new in India, it is a huge industry worldwide with decades of experience and operation internationally. There are internationally recognised minimum basic operating procedures that should be at least met if not surpassed. The ISA has a comprehensive set of requirements that should be met and, even better, exceeded.

8. Does the surf school use the safe equipment?

In learn to surf classes, a professional surf school should be using safe soft surfboards that are made of soft foam with the entire board being soft. A leash should be attached to the board and then to the surfer so if the surfer falls off, it is easy to retrieve the board. Both the board and leash should be in good condition.

9. Is there a maximum ratio of students to instructors that the surf school follows?

To maximise the safety of everyone in the class, the surf school should operate with a policy of a maximum of 8 surfers to each fully qualified ISA Surf Instructor in ideal good conditions.

As there is an element of danger with surfing, it is vital that a professional surf school meets the above. If you speak to a surf school and are not confident that they follow these basic procedures, it is maybe best to find another surf school.

Surfing is an excellent sport, a fantastic hobby and past time and for future Indian surfers can possibly become a full-time job as a professional surfing athlete or working in the surf industry. It is something that everyone should try and as long as you find a professional surf school meeting and exceeding the above, then you should find it an exhilarating experience that you will remember for the rest of your life and possible find a new sport that you want to continue to pursue and follow.

If you are in the Mangalore area, Walkin’ On Water Mangalore, based at Panambur Beach would love to take you out and teach you to surf, get you to feel the thrills and fun of surfing or if you are already surfing, help you progress to the next level. You can be assured that all our fully qualified professional surf instructors will give you lifetime memories and a fantastic surfing experience. Safety is the number one priority with every decision and every procedure in place to maximise all surfers safety and minimise any risks or dangers.

Currently for the rest of March, they are offering discounted prices. Normally Rs 1000 for a lesson, these are now only Rs 500 per lesson. If two of you come and surf together, you will both surf for Rs 800, 3 of you is only Rs900 and for 4 of you, it is even cheaper per person at Rs1000. So four of you can surf for the regular price of one person.

Walkin On Water Mangalore can be contacted on surf@walkinonwatermangalore.com, by phone on 97434 40134 or 99721 13538 or simply seeing them at their base on Panambur Beach by the lifeguards. You can also check out the website walkinonwatermangalore.com or their FaceBook and Instagram accounts – walkinonwatermangalore.

* The International Surfing Association or ISA is the international governing body of surfing. In India, we have the Surfing Federation of India (SFI) as the national governing body of surfing. The ISA is like the ICC in cricket and SFI are equivalent to Indian cricket’s BCCI