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Surfers’ Radical Safety: 6 Tips to Avoid Traumatic Injury

The award-winning Hoag Spine Center has a message for surfers: “We hope never to meet you, but if you do get injured in the ocean, we’re here for you.”

“Most neck and spinal cord injuries at the beach are caused by an ocean wave forcing your neck and spine into harmful, unnatural positions,” said Director of Hoag Spine Center Burak Ozgur, M.D. “Knowing how to protect your spine is important to injury prevention. With this background knowledge, you know what precautions to take.”

While surfing increases your risk of neck and spinal cord injuries, knowing how to stay safe in the water can save your neck – and your life. Hoag sponsors Project Wipeout, a community education initiative founded in 1979 with a mission to “wipeout” spinal cord injuries at the beach.

Project Wipeout’s safety tips include:

Dry and Not High. Avoid alcohol when surfing. Alcohol distorts your perception of risk, and your own abilities, makes you more likely to take potentially life-threatening risks, reduces your coordination and impairs your reaction time. All of which adds up to dangerous surf conditions.

Buddy System. Always surf with others, and learn how to help fellow surfers if an accident happens.

One Direction. When you wipeout, fall on your butt. Protect your head and neck when you fall.

Gear Up. Use the proper equipment at the beach. Use a leash when surfing and always use fins when body surfing/surfing.



Enough is Enough. Know your limits. Don’t paddle out if you are not prepared for the conditions. And plan your entry and exit.

Tight Grip. Always hold onto your board when going under waves to prevent it from hurting someone else.

Staying safe at the beach comes down to staying aware: pay attention to your surroundings, the surf and your own body. To learn more safety tips or talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk of injury, visit