Using a modified Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale, surfers and non-surfers were asked to complete a written questionnaire survey in order to compare the prevalence of GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), based on the hypothesis that paddling in the prone position on hard surfboard surfaces leads to increased intra-abdominal pressure and GERD.

A $5 Jamba Juice gift certificate for nonsurfer participants and a free bar of surf wax for surfers were offered for participation in the study. Subjects included were those aged >18 years and participated in any types of sports activity on average at least for 30 minutes once every 2 weeks. “Surfers” from surf shops or shorelines on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii. Only ‘‘prone paddler’’ board surfers were recruited. ‘‘Standup paddlers,’’ ‘‘knee paddlers,’’ and bodyboarders were not included in the surfer group. “Non-surfers” were recruited from gyms and parks on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii.

A subject was defined as having GERD when he or she reported heartburn and/or acid regurgitation more than once a week, including the preceding week.

The survey also included questioned current consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and whether they avoided meals shortly before sports activity. In addition, surfers were asked if their primary surfboard was short (<2.44 meters or 8 feet) or long (>2.44 meters or 8 feet).

185 surfers (mean age 30.6, 68.7% male), and 178 non-surfers (mean age 33.3, 57.9% male) completed the study. The prevalence of GERD was significantly higher in shortboard surfers than in nonsurfers with an odds ratio of 4.6 (28% versus 7%, P , 0.001). GERD was more prevalent in shortboarders than long-boarders (28% and 12%, respectively). The prevalence of GERD increased significantly as both the frequency and duration of surfing experience increased (P , 0.001).

Health providers should consider screening people who surf regularly for GERD and consider prescribing presurfing acid-reducing medications in addition to counseling surfers to avoid meals immediately before surfing. The data suggest that it may also be reasonable to recommend a switch from short-board surfing to long-board surfing in those who desire to continue surfing in the setting of significant GERD symptoms despite medication use.


(The photo is our edit of Buce Gibson’s 1963 movie called “Pipeline”)

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