How To Safely Wipeout When Surfing

🕓   4 min read

✏️   Updated on 26th March 2024


Hola surfing amigos, in this blog post we’ll be exploring ‘How To Safely Wipeout When Surfing’.

Now, ‘wiping out’ can be a bit sketchy the first few times, especially for beginners. In this post I explain what to do before, during and after a wipeout to stay safe. I’ve also got some useful tips to finish off, here’s a full rundown…

1. Before You Wipeout
2. As You’re Wiping Out
3. After You’ve Wiped Out
4. Tips To Build Water Confidence

It’s a really useful read, let’s get started!




1. Before You Wipeout

So, there are a few things you can do before getting in the sea. These things should help you feel more prepared and improve your safety whilst ‘wiping out’.

Some of these are fairly obvious, some require a bit of forward thinking and some just make good sense.

  • Understanding surfing etiquette – There’s no rulebook when it comes to surfing, but understanding surfing etiquette can help you navigate surfing situations in the proper way. If you’re unaware, go check out my ‘7 Rules of Surfing Etiquette’ – along with some childish drawings.
  • Pack a spare first aid kit – Easy thing to do and just makes good sense. Have it in the car, surfboard bag or your beach backpack.
  • Know what to do in an emergency – Not everyone knows how to signal the coastguard, so here’s how… If you’re in a spot of trouble whilst surfing, raise your right arm and wave towards the coastguard.
  • Be aware of the location – Are there any rocks or areas that should be avoided at certain times in the day? If you’re surfing somewhere new, ask the local coastguard. If nobody’s about, be brave and ask the locals.
  • Be mindful of the conditions – The most common beginner mistake is surfing in conditions beyond their ability. Surf in conditions you can handle, it’s safer and much more fun.
  • Watch the waves – Before heading in, take a few minutes to watch the waves. I do this whilst stretching and it gives me a good idea of what to expect.
  • Tie yourself in – Double check your surfboard leash is properly connected. The last thing we want is a rogue surfboard floating about.
  • Watch out for other surfers – Once amongst it, get a feel for the surfers around you (but obvs don’t actually touch them). You want to give yourself and them enough space incase wipeouts happen – they probs will.


2. As You’re Wiping Out

Now onto actually ‘wiping out’ and how to do it properly so you stay safe.

  • Fall the right way – As you wipeout, try and fall to the side or back of your surfboard.
  • Give your surfboard a nudge – If you can, gently nudge your surfboard away from you as you fall. This will reduce the chance of it being near you when you’re under the water.
  • Bum first – The best and safest way to enter the water is bum first, never head first.
  • Take a breath – As you fall, take a quick breath in and be prepared to be under the water for a few seconds (this is the sketchy bit).
  • Protect yourself – Whilst under the water, cover your head and face using your arms. This will protect you from any unwanted encounters with your surfboard.
  • Tuck your legs in – You’ll also want to tuck your legs in to make yourself as small as possible whilst under the water.
  • Surface cautiously – If you’re not sure where your surfboard is, be careful when you surface – your surfboard may be directly above you.




3. After You’ve Wiped Out

Once you’ve survived your wipeout, here are some more useful tips to help you recover.

  • Stand up – If you’re within your depth, stand up. It will feel good to be on solid ground so you can get your balance and breath back.
  • Locate your surfboard – Find your surfboard and get it under control – once under control it’s no longer a danger to others.
  • Take a moment – If you experience a particularly bad wipeout (AKA you’re a bit freaked out), head towards shore and take a moment to chill.
  • Reflect  – After you wipeout, try and think about what you could improve to reduce the chances of it happening again.


4. Tips To Build Water Confidence

For some, water confidence comes naturally – but that isn’t the case for all. For those who need a bit more reassurance, there are a handful of useful tricks that can help build confidence, no matter a surfer’s age.

Here is a very quick list of tips and exercises to try out when surfing. Some of these are easier than others, some don’t even require surf gear – but all should help you build confidence whilst amongst the waves.

  • Surf with a friend – Not only is this safer, shouting “Party wave” never gets boring.
  • Spend more time in water – Like most things, the more you do it the less scary it becomes – take every opportunity to dip your toes in.
  • Eyewear can help – As un-cool as goggles are, they can certainly help build confidence in water – it’s more cool to not care what others think.
  • No surfboard needed – Go under a few waves without your surfboard and try and stay as calm as possible. This should help you get used to the feeling of waves passing over you.
  • Float around – If there’s no waves, float on your back like a starfish for as long as you can whilst staying calm. It will help you control your breathing and reduce the level of panic.
  • Bubbles – One final exercise is to dunk your head underwater and blow bubbles (you can even try humming your favourite tune). As childish as this may sound it’s a proven way to improve aquatic breathing.





Well, I hope you guys have found this ‘How To Safely Wipeout When Surfing’ post helpful.

As with all things, being more comfortable when ‘wiping out’ takes time but the above should help keep you safe. The little list of tips and exercises are also a great way to build water confidence – so if that’s a concern try some of them out on your next trip.

Be great to here what you all think in the comments, and if there are any other topics you’d like covered – let me know. This blog post idea actually came from a conversation with a follower on Instagram, which I think is pretty cool.

As always, be sure to follow on the usual socials below to keep up to date with the latest surfing content!


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Next read: ‘How To Remove GoPro Surfboard Mount’

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