The European Association of Surfing Doctors (EASD) organised the very first Surfer’s Academy. This one-day health symposium for (non-medically trained) surfers was held in Sligo, on the NW coast of Ireland – home to famed spots such as Easkey and Mullaghmore – following the Third Annual Conference in Surfing Medicine.
The event was a resounding success and was positively received by the local surf community. Featured talks included Big Wave Surfing safety, sun/UV protection and skin cancer, and shoulder injury: prevention and warm-up routines; a truly diverse program, delivering ample opportunity for discussion and interaction between surf medics and the surf community.
There were many local contributors, such as Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival, Irish Big Wave paddle-specialist, horticulturalist, and organic farmer, Fergal Smith, and Irish Surfing Pioneer and Artist, Barry Britton to name a few.
The day was divided into thematic blocks covering the following subjects: ‘Injury and Prevention’, ‘The Elements’, ‘Country Soul’, and ‘Training and Performance’. Medical specialists and allied health professionals held fifteen minute, clear, unambiguous talks with simple take-home messages for the surfer. Just like TEDX for surfers!
‘Injury and Prevention’
Sports Medicine Specialist; Co-founder, Waves of Health; Co-author of “Surf Survival – The Surfers Health Handbook”, Hawaii
Most injuries come directly from the surfboard, from riding waves, specifically during a takeoff. Surf conditions often influence injury. Arguably the most famous injury owing to a surfboard is that of Jack O’Neill, wetsuit pioneer and founder of O’Neill. ‘Kooks’, who have minimal experience, seem to be at the higher risk, but in practice, the highest injury rate lies with professional surfers. Dr. Everline offers a word to the wise: Never to Drop In on another, and don’t grab the reef when wiping out, Mother Ocean is always stronger than you!
Physiotherapist, Sligo, Ireland
What is the surfer’s shoulder and how to prevent injury and shoulder pain typical amongst surfers? Practical tips were offered, in fact, everyone was up-out-of-their-seats to demonstrate! First off, good posture is vital, as is stretching of the spine. The essence is to keep your lower back flexible and it’s better to stretch at home before going surfing than not at all (even 10 minutes helps). Surfers tend to skip stretching on the beach before going surfing, because the waves are pumping and the surfing can’t wait! If ongoing shoulder pain persists, rest, and seek further health professional advice.
GP/Trauma/Emergency Medicine Specialist; EASD Board Member; ASLS Course Director, Hamburg, Germany
The Surfer’s Medical Kit, the take-home message was twofold: take a medical kit that you can actually bring with you, and make sure you are capable of using the equipment in it. Detailed information to follow shortly on our website, so stay tuned!
Big Wave Surfer & Paramedic/Firefighter; ASLS Lifeguard Instructor, Co.Clare, Ireland
Paramedic, Firefighter, and Big Wave Surfer, Peter Conroy spoke about his role as a professional in (surf) rescue situations. He discussed safety, rescue techniques, and equipment, teaming up in big wave surfing, and the forming of the Irish Tow Rescue Club.
‘The Elements’ – Cold, UV, the Environment
Ear Nose Throat Surgeon, Saint Jean de Luz, La Cote Basque/France
Surfer’s ear is all about bone growth in the ear canal due to the cold water exposure. With surgery excessive bone growth can be removed, but complications can’t be excluded and such a surgery can keep you out of the water for anything from two to eight weeks! Earplugs that are custom-molded are a good prevention measure. Keep earplugs dry and clean, otherwise you’ll keep re-infecting yourself, and do not stick your fingers (or anything else, including cotton buds) in your ears!
Ophthalmologist; EASD Board Member; EASD Head of Outreach/Sponsorship/Education, Vienna, Austria
UV- B, C, and High Energy Radiation (HER) damage the eyes. Therefore, limit the UV exposure to the eye and remember to protect your eyes when surfing and on the beach. Eye damage may be increased by sunlight reflection, which may be caused by surfboards, white water, and wetsuits whilst surfing. Tissue damage of the eye caused by light can become severe. So, for prevention use good quality sunglasses and visit your doctor for checkups.
Dermatologist, Munich, Germany
Surfers are a high-risk population for developing skin cancer. Be aware of what skin type you are; people with a very fair skin type have two times more chance of developing skin cancer. Protect yourself by choosing a SPF 50 sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection; apply at least 30 minutes before surfing. Apply it before, during, and after your surf session. The myth that sunscreen damages your health, is not scientifically proven, and there is no evidence to support this false assertion. White cheeks, frequently seen in the water, are normal. This is because of the zinc often contained in sunscreen.
Irish Water Safety (IWS), Ardmore, Waterford, Ireland
Ronan O’Connor, who is an IWS Water Safety Examiner and surfer, spoke about the promotion of water safety by IWS. Irish Water Safety is the statutory body established to promote water safety in Ireland. Their role is to educate people in water safety best practices. Ronan explained how they develop public awareness campaigns to promote necessary attitudes, rescue skills, and behaviour to prevent drowning and water related accidents. Ireland is the first country in Europe to introduce a National Surf Instructor Beach Award. “It’s all about keeping people safe, happy and stoked”. Beginner surfers are high-risk; therefore, educate your fellow surfers about local dangers.
Coastal Programmes Officer, Sligo, Ireland
Olivia Crossan (Clean Coasts Ireland) gave an overview of the activities of Clean Coasts Ireland. Since 2013, an amazing 715 beach clean-ups have been organized. She presented the ‘2 minute beach clean’ (#2minutebeachclean), a new awareness initiative whereby every surf class holds a 2 minute beach clean-up following their lessons. It’s effective and has a low threshold for participation.
‘From ASLS to BSLS’ by Dr.Mischa Gottinger
GP/Trauma/Emergency Medicine Specialist; EASD Board Member; ASLS Course Director, Hamburg, Germany
Dr.Gottinger gave an overview of the Basic Surf Medicine Life Support (BSLS) course, currently in development by the EASD, for the non-medically trained general surfing public. This course will deliver basic first aid/first response, and water safety capability, to participants. The course will launch in late 2015/early 2016. Stay tuned to our website for details!
Psychiatrist and Dynamic Psychotherapist, New York, USA
Why are we stoked? The Wave Cycle; Commitment, Death and Anxiety; Surfing and Lessons in Life… From Erickson to Freud, dealing with conflict, dropping in versus pulling out. In surfing we experience “small deaths”, analogous to Near Death Experiences (NDE). Euphoria after threading the eye-of-the needle to emerge from a barrel, surviving, mastering the ocean, and being able to navigate catastrophe, surfing humbles and teaches in many ways!
Clinical Psychologist and Founder, Headstrong
Surfing is a journey of mental health, it begins with the body. In many ways surfers are ‘on-the-edge’, yet not alone. We turn into the wave for the ride as we turn into our lives and face the challenges therein. Letting go in life is akin to towing a big wave, after that you have to assess, reassess, and adapt for what’s happening in real-time.
Psychologist, Leipzig, Germany
What is flow? What are the reasons why we surf and why some of us take surfing to the extremes by going big? Big wave surfing encompasses sensation seeking. Is the surfer (big wave or otherwise) an addict?
‘The Good Life’ by Fergal Smith
Pro Surfer and Organic Farmer, Co.Clare, Ireland
Fergal Smith grew up in County Mayo on an organic farm. Following a seemingly stellar early career in surfing, injury caused Fergal to reassess his priorities, coming to a realization that his Health was his Wealth. Air, Water, and Food, are the three most important things in life. From this simple premise, he relocated to Clare, on the West coast of Ireland, and started a community farm. Breathing fresh air, drinking clean water, and growing wholesome food are his staple diet!
‘Training and Performance’
Director Surf School Lanzarote, ISA/SGB Instructor, Lanzarote, Spain
Tell other surfers about rips, because there are lots who don’t know the danger of rips, especially novices. Even a pro swimmer couldn’t out swim one! How to identify; How to escape a rip: Swim sideways out and wave with a straight arm if in distress. There’s more to follow on this and surfing safe, so keep an eye out on the homepage in the coming weeks!
‘Nutrition & Surfing Longevity’ by Dr.Patrick Scully
GP and MSc (Nutrition Medicine), Co.Tyrone, Northern Ireland
What to eat if you still want to be surfing when you’re 70+? Dr. Scully presented a range of common conditions seen in advanced age and discussed how, in his opinion, excessive sugar consumption may contribute to physical and cognitive deterioration later in life.
‘Surf Training – Deconstructing Manoeuvres: Compression, Extension, Rotation’
Director Surf School Surfles, Scheveningen, Lifeguard Instructor, Former Dutch National Longboard Champion, The Netherlands
A wide array of tips and tricks to improve your surfing were offered. Some helpful suggestions include: get someone to film you surfing, take part in surf coaching, watch films in slow-motion and focus on specific manoeuvres. When analyzing your surfing technique, try to assess whether the problem lays in one of the basic building blocks, i.e. compression, extension, or rotation (or a combination of these).
‘Surf Science: Training and Performance’ by Prof.Miguel Moreira
Professor in Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal; Technical Adviser to the Portuguese Surfing Federation
Surfing as a sport, may be divided into complex taxonomy of movement patterns. Prof.Moreira’s advice is to start early, bearing these movements in mind, but let kids play, let them practice a wide variety of different sports. Let kids be kids and enjoy their childhood. Don’t restrict or specialize too early. The optimum profile of the elite surfer is not yet defined, though further research is starting to identify the main characteristics.
See you in the water! Keep an eye on the website and social media for the upcoming events, podcasts and articles for further information on Health and Surfing.