River Surfing Safety

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Although people have been river surfing for years, it is still considered a new sport and the etiquette on safety can vary with each wave around the world. This post covers the safety precautions that I would suggest taking before surfing in Dayton Ohio region at normal levels (Please note: This is just my personal opinion. I am always open for respectfully debating the issues, but I DO NOT speak for the entire river surfing community) -Shannon Thomas

Life Jackets
A PFD (personal floatation device) should always be worn while on any water way around Dayton. When paddleboard (SUP) surfing, a coast guard certified life jacket should be worn because it is considered a watercraft and to be legal, you must have one on your vessel. From a safety standpoint, a bigger board is harder to manage when taking a swim and it’s harder to swim with a paddle in your hand.

With prone river surfing, it can be difficult to lay on top of your board with a bulky PFD because you tend to slide off of it, so a more form fitted life jacket, such as wakeboard style jackets, can be used and often they fit better and can have just as much buoyancy as a regular PFD but unless you’re a more experienced surfer with whitewater experience, a full PFD should be worn. A lot of kayakers or paddlers may disagree, but it is different sport and especially being hands free and using the board under you to swim, makes it much easier.

My Recommended Gear: Astral YTV for a full PFD. I never feel restricted and plenty of buoyancy. For prone surfing, The BodyGlove Bob Soven!

Leashes keep you connected to your board and allow you to retrieve your board quickly and easily. Boards won’t sink or take on water so your board is often your backup floatation, so being able to grab your leash and get back to your board quickly is important. However, if there’s a strainer or a way to get tangled, they can become dangerous. That is why the leash should have a quick release so you can detach quickly. Ankle or calf leashes are better than nothing but are harder to reach. A quick release leash, carabinered to your life jacket for an easy reach, whether to disconnect or to pull your board back to you before swimming to the eddy is the best option.

My Recommended Gear: The Badfish SUP 6’ Straight Re’Leash

There’s been a lot of talk and controversy on this subject. Kayakers often roll and are upside down in their boats when rolling so helmets are pretty important. SUP surfing, I personally, always wear a helmet. With a bigger board and a paddle, there’s more of a chance of getting hit by a paddle or your board than any rock really. With prone surfing, I used to always wear a helmet but swimming with a helmet isn’t the easiest sometimes and has often restricted me when swimming or my vision. It’s just my opinion, but with prone surfing, I believe it is personal preference. I still will wear a helmet when prone surfing a new spot or a busy river where there’s tons of rafts coming down through the wave. If you are a beginner and still learning how to properly fall, it’s always highly recommended wearing a helmet.

It’s similar etiquette to surfing in the ocean, a board can always come back and hit you which is why anytime I fall weird and go under water for a second, I come up with my arms covering my head til I know where my board is. Accidents and things can always happen though, so yes, it will always be safer with a helmet!

My Recommended Gear: Digging the new Shred Ready Zeta Helmets!

This is one that not many follow but protective footwear is important. There’s sharp rocks or concrete that you are often walking on, especially with prone river surfing. Sure, every once in awhile I’ll go barefoot but 99% of the time, Ill wear a good pair of Astral water shoes just for the extra grip and jumping into the wave from the edges. Booties will also suffice when its cold. Sure, not having foot protection isnt going to be life threatening but I don’t want my session being cut short due to a cut or broken toe.

My Recommended Gear: Love my Astral Loyaks

Fall thru Spring, that water can be cold and that wind chill can make it even colder so always come with the correct thickness wetsuit and proper booties or gloves if needed. This sometimes will all come down to what you are comfortable with but it also serves as a outer protective skin against rocks or your board and it also keeps you more buoyant when in the water!

My Recommended Gear: There’s a lot of great wetsuit brands out there. I like my Body Glove and Patagonia suits and hear good things about Hurley and Ripcurl too. I do recommend 3/4 thickness as the most versatile just because it keeps you plenty warm and you can always flush fresh cold water in the neck if you’re feeling too warm while surfing.

-Shannon Thomas

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