Many people think that surfing is only dangerous when it’s performed over a barnacle encrusted rock shelf or in waves that shake the earth when they break. What they fail to realise though is that surfing is always dangerous.
You could trip over your leggie and faceplant into the gnarled root of a Central American rubber tree, accidentally lather your melon with too much 30+ and render yourself blind or be struck by a bolt of Zeus’ finest and briefly transform into a human lightning rod. The last of which is actually pretty darn freaky, especially considering the odds of being hit by lightning in one’s lifetime is 1 in 5,000.
Wait… isn’t that high?
In any case, the topic for today is whether or not it’s safe to surf during a lightning storm. The short answer to this being no, while the long answer is of course bloody not you fool! You’re literally sitting in the best conductor of electricity in a totally exposed environment. Not to mention if you do happen to get hit and by some miracle survive, you’d have to be born with a horseshoe up your arse to actually make it to shore. But that’s not all.
Apparently, there’s another thing called ‘ground currents’, which spread out over the ground after lightning strikes and account for up to 50 per cent of lightning related injuries in Australia, as opposed to those clumsy direct strikes which account for only 3 to 5 per cent.
Shocking, I know.
The good news is that there are precautions you can take if you happen to be in the water when a lightning storm hits. The first of these steps being to get out of the fucking water and head for cover. Seriously, I know that some storms bring squalls that magically transform onshore slop into flawless offshore barrels, but (I’m pretty sure) one epic wave at your local beachie ain’t worth dying for.
The second of these precautionary measures is once you’re on land, stay low and keep away from any metal surfaces. This includes street signs, phone boxes, footy posts and motorcycles, which are obviously also dangerous even when they’re stationary. Bloody death machines.
The third tip for keeping safe in a lightning storm if you’re a surfer is to immediately bail for cover if you feel your skin tingle and your hairs stand on end. If this happens, it's not because you've suddenly acquired a sixth sense for when a good run of swell is about hit. In fact, it's quite the opposite and usually means you’re in the strike zone champ, and that the next one is going straight up your clacker.
So to sum it all up; it's not safe to surf during a lightning storm and if you do happen to find yourself facing one down with nowhere to go, remember to react to the developing threat quickly and keep an eye on how wind, rain, the ocean, and clouds behave.
It could just save your life.