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Surfing FAQ

Posted by Norman Kelly on

What’s the difference between a regular pack and a surfing pack?

The main difference has to do with keeping your wet gear separate from dry gear. A surf pack will have a separate compartment for you to store your wetsuit and beach gear, keeping stuff like food, towels, and electronics safe from water damage.  

Do I need to be a strong swimmer? 

You will not need to swim in order to surf, but it is highly recommended that you feel confident in your ability to swim. When things go wrong, you’ll want to be able to pull yourself to safety. 

Should I start with a long or shortboard? 

For beginners, this doesn’t make much of a difference. Once you get into the scene, though, you’ll be able to find the board that suits your style. Longboarders tend to be more relaxed and take on a variety of wave sizes while shortboarding is more aggressive and requires a lot more technical skill to do correctly.  

How can I become good at surfing while landlocked? 

I am sure you don’t want to hear this, but the truth is, NOTHING. Surfing is an ocean sport that involves a complex set of ocean skills. However, there are things that you can do on shore that will help condition yourself. Get in great aerobic shape. Run and or swim often. Pool swimming won’t replace ocean swimming, but it is a great workout. Other board sports, like skateboarding or onshore longboarding, can help improve your balance, too. 

If you are in decent aerobic shape, have decent balance and an average degree of athleticism, you’ll then need to learn how to be at home in the ocean. Real surfing is not done in the waist deep white water at the water’s edge. When you are comfortable in the ocean, a few good surfing lessons will get you started.  

Will I need a wetsuit? 

That depends on where you want to surf. If temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need something to keep you warm. If you’re in a more tropical climate, you can go without a suit. That said, investing in a board shirt can help prevent some superficial injuries.  


How to Care for a Reef Wound

Posted by Norman Kelly on

Coral exoskeletons, as many reef surfers know, can be extremely sharp. While most reefs are deep underwater, far enough away for surfers to be in danger, the occasional rough wave could send somebody several yards below the surface. When this happens, you may scratch a foot, elbow, or other part of your body on coral. While the wound may look benign at first, it can quickly develop into a painful, infectious, and dangerous situation.

Coral cut symptoms differ from regular cuts. Typically, the skin will become inflamed, red, tender, swollen, and sometimes itchy. If the wound becomes infected, it may develop into a sore or ulcer with pus. If the redness around the wound expands past the localized area, the infection is spreading and requires immediate emergency medical attention. Similarly, red streaks moving upward from a wound will require a trip to the emergency room.

Preventing Infection from a Coral Cut

Coral cuts are common for reef surfers, but a small incision can quickly turn into a visit to the hospital. Warm, tropical waters may feel nice to the uninjured surfers, but this environment is full of microscopic organisms that can cause harm. If your skin is sliced open while underwater, these organisms may seize the opportunity to enter the body.

Additionally, because coral formations are both rigid and sharp, cutting yourself on a mass will leave behind a small amount of animal protein and calcareous material inside the wound. This means that an otherwise small, harmless-appearing cut can develop into a serious infection. Listen to a board-certified dermatologist about skin infections, they can become dangerous very quickly. Plus, some corals contain nematocysts, which is an organ some marine animals have that contains an ejectable threat, like a stinger. If you cut yourself on one of these corals, you will sustain a more significant injury.

Coral Cut Wound Checklist

  1. As soon as you are out of the water, scrub your wound with soap and water. It is important to do this as soon as possible after coming in contact with the coral. Before scrubbing, take care to remove all visible pieces of coral that may have become lodged in the wound.
  • If you have a First Aid kit on hand, use isopropyl alcohol to clean the wound further. This should kill some of the microscopic organism that may have entered the wound, and it can reduce the overall effect of any toxins a coral may have.
  • Pat the wound dry and cover with a gauze bandage. If the bleeding has not yet stopped, visit your nearest hospital. While rarer than the occasional scrape, some reef surfers can get cut up pretty badly if they have a bad fall. The best way to heal the wound and receive proper care is to visit a medical professional at an emergency room or hospital.
  • If you did not need to visit the hospital, rinse the wound daily and apply an antibiotic ointment, like bacitracin, 3-4 times per day. Keep track of your daily use in case a doctor needs to know later.
  • See your doctor at the first signs of an infection. Typically, oral antibiotics are prescribed to prevent and rid the body of infection. If you don’t see any evidence of an infection, an over-the-counter steroid ointment may be used as itch relief as the wound heals.

If your wound does not show signs of an infection, but it has not healed after a week or two, make an appointment with your doctor. This may not be an emergency, but it could indicate a different type of infection.


Beaches in South Orange County

Posted by Norman Kelly on

In South Orange County, I like use two beaches for the surf lessons I teach. 90 % of them are held at Doheny State Beach, which is best for beginners. Intermediate and advanced lessons, as well as bodyboard lessons, are held at Salt Creek State Beach. If you’re in South Orange County and interested in surfing the same waves, I’ve included some more information about each beach 

Doheny State Beach 

Doheny is an ideal beginner’s wave. Swells slip past the swell-choking jetty, break softly over a bed of cobblestones and form into slow shoulders providing perfect waves for learning how to surf.  Doheny is located at Doheny State Beach park at the base of the cliffside in Dana Point. 

Doheny Beach in Southern California is a beach that makes you feel like you’ve been “away from it all!” The waves are slow paced with people of all ages from 4 to 80 surfing together. The wave provides you the perfect formula that enables you to stand up and have long exciting rides on the very first day you surf. 

Though the Pacific Coast Highway is very close by, including access to many businesses and restaurants, if you should need them, you don’t actually have to see any busy streets while you’re in the Dana Point Harbor/Doheny Beach area. 

In the nearby Marina Village, just down Dana Point Harbor Drive, you can browse through a collection of interesting shops, gaze at beautiful white yachts floating in a sparkling blue harbor, rent a kayak and paddle around the calm waters of the harbor, or dine at one of several good restaurants. 

You can head out onto Dana Point harbor’s man-made island, where you’ll find quiet, shady spots for picnicking, and a long, attractive sidewalk for strolling or jogging. Just a bit farther still down Dana Point Harbor Drive, you’ll come to the Dana Point Marine Institute, where you can take in exhibits, explore old-fashioned sailing ships, visit a waveless “baby beach,” or just enjoy the beautiful scenery from a pier. 

Salt Creek State Beach 

Nestled in a beautiful cove at the northern end of Laguna Niguel lies Salt Creek, a watery playground of long pointbreak-style lefts, wedgy A-frames, relentless shore break and sand-gurgling rights. You name the type of wave, and Creek probably has it. Salt Creek is more of a steep wave making it more dangerous and difficult to learn how to surf. Salt Creek is for intermediate and advanced surfers as well as bodyboarders. While this doesn’t mean beginners can’t surf here, it does imply that you might want to take fewer risks here than at a calmer beach.