By The Magicseaweed.com Team
20th February 2007

First Aid for Surfers

Long haul travel is so simple and cheap now it's easy to forget that surfing new destinations, often in remote locations or with poor local health services can be a pretty hazardous thing to do. Keeping healthy depends on a bit of luck, some preparation and knowing what to do when things go wrong.

The first aid information on this website is to be used as a guide and should not be thought of as a subsitute for an accreditated first aid course, or the advice from a trained professional, instead we've compiled just a short summary of issues specific to surfing that you should be prepared to deal with, depending on your destination. There's a lot more general travel health advice available on the web which we'll give some links to below.

Treating and managing wounds
The faster you can treat your wounds, and manage them effectively, the more time you will have to enjoy the waves on your trip! Steps to treat and manage wounds are:

  1. Wash the wound with fresh water and ensure any pieces of debris (coral, rock, fibreglass, etc.) are removed from inside the wound using tweezers or the urchin picker found in your kit. Don't be afraid to scrub the wound using gauze dipped in antiseptic as this helps to remove any foreign bacteria.
  2. Apply antiseptic to the wound (Die Da Yao Gin Chinese Antiseptic which is available as part of the 'natural footed' first aid kit is perhaps the most effective antiseptic for coral and reef cuts in tropical climates. Another useful antiseptic is povidone-iodine solution). The antiseptic may sting but it is extremely important that any foreign bacteria is killed before they have time to invade cells within the wound.
  3. Keep the wound free of dirt and covered as much as possible using Fixomull and Melolite items available in all Naturalfooted kits and through our online store. Similar dressings may also be used.
  4. Re-dress wounds as required. Do not leave dressings on for more than 3 days.
  5. Infection is indicated by yellow pus within the wound site, and soreness/redness surrounding the wound site. If infection is present scrub the wound using gauze dipped in antiseptic. Once all the yellow pus is removed, re-apply antiseptic and dress appropriately.

First Aid Kits

Most of the information on this page was compiled by the guys at Naturalfooted.com.au. They make a great line of First Aid kits specifically for surfers and will sell and ship one to you direct from their website to anywhere in the world.

Click Here to Find Out More

Signs of infection

  1. Infections in tropical regions should be treated immediately
  2. Pain, redness, swelling or yellow pus from a wound indicates that the wound is infected
  3. Scrubbing the wound with fresh water and antiseptic is effective, however if infection persists then seek professional medical assistance as antibiotics may be required
Things to remember when in warm water and tropical climates
  1. Warm, tropical water holds higher levels of bacteria than cooler water.
  2. It is important that all wounds, no matter how small, are treated immediately, and monitored for signs of infection.
  3. Try to keep wounds covered where possible, but also check them regularly for signs of infection.

Doing this will ensure that your wounds heal quickly and effectively, leaving more time for you to enjoy the waves!

Shark Attack
If someone is bitten by a shark:

  1. Treat the patient immediately on site.
  2. Stop the bleeding immediately by applying direct pressure above or on the wound, a tourniquet or leg rope may be tied tightly above the wound to block blood flow if bleeding cannot be controlled by a pressure bandage.
  3. Reassure the patient at all times.
  4. Send for an ambulance and medical personnel (if possible do not move the patient if badly injured).
  5. Cover the patient lightly with clothing or a towel.
  6. Give nothing by mouth.

The following animals have been identified in fatal unprovoked shark attacks on humans:

  • White Pointer Carcharodon carcharias.
  • Tiger Shark Galeocerdo cuvier.
  • Whaler Sharks Carcharhinus sp. (several species also known as Bull sharks in some countries).
The following sharks are considered potentially dangerous:

  • Wobbegong Orectolobus sp.
  • Hammerhead Sphyrna sp.
  • Blue Shark Prionace glauca.
  • Mako Isurus sp.
  • Grey Nurse Shark Carcharias taurus.

Spinal or Neck injury
Suspected spine or check injuries should be treated with extreme caution. The signs and symptoms of a suspected spinal or neck injury are:

  • History of trauma
  • Unnatural posture
  • 'Tingling', unusual, or absent feeling in the limbs
  • Inability to move arms and/or legs
  • Onset of shock

To treat a suspected spinal or neck injury:

  • Immobilize the casualty, keeping the head in line with the shoulders and spine
  • Seek medical assistance
  • Maintain body heat whilst treating for shock and any other injuries


The signs and symptoms of a suspected fracture are any of the following:

  • Deformity
  • Loss of power to the limb
  • Tenderness or possible associated blood loss

To treat a suspected fracture:

  • Immobilize the casualty and the suspected fractured limb using another body part or splint
  • Attempt to stem any blood loss using a dressing, gauze or bandage
  • Seek medical assistance immediately

Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains and bruises should be treated with the following R.I.C.E Method:

  1. Rest - Rest the patient where possible, ensuring they are comfortable
  2. Ice - Apply ice to the affected area
  3. Compression - Apply a compression bandage to the affected area
  4. Elevation - Elevate the affected area

Marine Bites & Stings
All marine bites and stings are potentially deadly, and should therefore be treated promptly and effectively.


  • DO NOT rub the affected area
  • DO NOT apply vinegar (lab tests have shown vinegar to cause a discharge of nematocysts that deliver the venom)
  • Remove the tentacles with sea water
  • Apply a dry cold compress to relieve the pain
  • Monitor casualty using DR ABC Emergency Plan


  • Irukandji jellyfish is thumbnail sized and considered extremely deadly!
  • DO NOT rub the affected area
  • Apply liberal amounts of vinegar
  • Apply a dry cold compress to relieve the pain
  • Seek medical assistance immediately
  • Cardiac arrest is common so be sure to monitor the casualty carefully
  • In the event of a cardiac arrest, CPR takes priority over everything, even vinegar application


  • Same as for Box Jellyfish and Irukanji


  • Immerse the wound in non-scalding hot water to relieve pain
  • Seek medical assistance immediately


  • apply a pressure immobilization bandage immediately
  • Commence mouth to mouth resuscitation if breathing becomes difficult
  • seek medical assistance immediately


  • Immerse the wound in non-scalding hot water to relieve pain
  • Sea urchin spines are extremely brittle and often break off inside the wound. A sea urchin picker like that found in the a Naturalfooted Surfer's First Aid Kit can be effective in removing spines. Do not dig around in the skin to fish them out - this risks crushing the spines and making them more difficult to remove. Do not intentionally crush the spines
  • Purple or black markings in the skin that appear immediately after a sea urchin encounter do not necessarily indicate the presence of a retained spine fragment. Such discolouration is more likely dye leached from the surface of a spine, commonly from a black urchin. The dye will be absorbed over 24 to 48 hours, and the discolouration will disappear
  • If there are still black markings after 48 to 72 hours, then a spine fragment is likely present. - Seek medical assistance if spines have been retained and become infected, and monitor casualty’s condition
  • Most spine fragments are absorbed or removed by the body within 3 weeks

heck with your doctor to see what vaccination injections you require for your chosen destination. Remember, plan to do this at least 6 weeks before you intend to travel! Don't leave it too late!

The protective effect of vaccines takes some time to develop following vaccination. The immune response of the vaccinated individual will become fully effective within a period of time that varies according to the vaccine, the number of doses required and whether the individual has previously been vaccinated against the same disease. For this reason, travellers are advised to consult a travel medicine clinic or personal physician 4–6 weeks before departure if the travel destination is one where exposure to any vaccine-preventable diseases may occur.

For more information visit the World Health Organization website - www.who.int

For a huge amount of travel related health advice check out www.traveldoctor.co.uk

Submitted By The Magicseaweed.com Team on the 20th February 2007.
This article has been viewed 28517 times.
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