A 2015 study suggests recreational surfers are making as many rescues worldwide as the entirety of our profession makes annually. The study, Guardians of the Surf: The role and value of surfers in Australian beach and coastal surf rescues found 63% of surfers felt as though they had saved a life, but may have been more helpful through improved training.
According to a study on surfing populations worldwide by Ponting and O’Brien there are 35 million of us surfing and if 67% of us made just one rescue we would be effectively saving 2,345,000,000 lives annually according to the report.
The study found surfers perform a considerable number of rescues in both guarded water (45%) and unguarded water (54%) with the primary factor of more than 75% of the rescues involving rip currents (80% of all recorded rescues are due to rip currents).
And not surprising, more than 78% of surfers are willing and ready to help when a person is in need, with many suggesting they would participate in additional training to improve response times and to provide better patient care. And let’s be honest, experienced surfers, watermen, and waterwoman are typically in locations which can be hazardous to waders, swimmers, and inexperienced surfers and already are carrying a floatation device.
However, the study also identified several gaps in layperson rescues including creating multiple victim rescues when inexperienced or less knowledgeable surfers are involved with rescue operations, and there is a gap in patient care when traumatic injuries or medical issues are a part of the incident.
Further, with the explosion of private surf camps and schools dotting our shorelines it is imperative each marine safety service set minimum training and certification standards for the owners, coaches, and staff of these businesses so that rescue and care are not delayed.
Fortunately, the forward thinking of several agencies have provided the framework for providing this training, which not only provides the proper training for the public to assist us in our reactive roles, but also strengthens the community bonds we so desperately need to demonstrate relevancy and necessity.
Surfer NSW developed Surfers Rescue 24/7 training which provides recreational surfers with hands-on CPR training and how to utilize a surfboard to safely affect a rescue.
The City of Huntington Beach debuted SALT training in 2018 to high school and college surf teams and clubs and blessing them to be part of a first responder program.