Is it safe to surf after the rain?

How does surfing after heavy rain affect your health? Make no mistake: the risk is far greater than the reward.

It’s hard to be out of the water when the waves are perfect and the peak is empty. But if the rain has just fallen, you better stay where you are.

It’s a classic dilemma, one that’s been rumored in the surf community for a couple of decades.

What are the risks of contracting diseases after the rain? Should you postpone a surf session just because it’s raining?

Today we know that this is not a good idea, especially considering that many of the most popular surf spots in the world are located in front of urban areas.

So it’s true: surfing after the rain can seriously affect your health. The problem is well known and has nothing to do with raindrops falling from the sky.

Can you surf in the rain?

Yes, you can, as long as you don’t see a storm on the horizon or a high probability of lightning. Although acid rain is a reality, the main complication comes from the  mainland  .

According to health specialists, surfers and bathers should never go into the sea after it rains. But why is that?

Contaminated Water

When it rains, urban runoff increases, sending untreated garbage, human and animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, oil, paint, and other pollutants into waterways such as rivers, streams, lakes, and creeks.

Eventually, they will reach the ocean and contaminate urban surf breaks at nearby beaches and river mouths.

Because rainfall events generate a significant amount of surface water,   water contamination levels increase dramatically in a short period of time.

Sewage leaks from flooded sewer pipes will also pollute the ocean sooner or later, making it dangerous to enjoy what the sea has to offer.

The problem is more common and prevalent in high-density residential areas located near the waterfront.

In some countries, local authorities issue warnings and impose penalties on those who violate prohibition restrictions.

Health experts believe that people should avoid surfing or swimming in the sea for at least 72 hours after it rains because they will expose themselves to diseases and infections.

Within hours of a major precipitation event, ocean water becomes a haven for E. coli (Escherichia coli), amoebas, protozoa, and other pathogens.

Health problems associated with ingesting fecally contaminated seawater include gastroenteritis, hepatitis, giardiasis, skin rashes, amoebic dysentery, nose, ear, and throat problems, conjunctivitis, and other respiratory diseases.

In other words, you may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, an inflamed stomach and intestines, and physical disturbances related to exposure to harmful bacteria.

Storms: Do not surf immediately after the rain |  Photo: Shutterstock

Higher Rate Of Gastrointestinal Complications

In 2016, the Surfrider Foundation partnered with the University of California School of Public Health and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project to explore whether there was a strong and clear correlation between rainfall events and health problems. or if everything was a problem. unproven empirical assumption.

The Surfers’ Health Study concluded that there is a higher rate of gastrointestinal illness from surfing, and that rate increases after wet weather.

The researchers stressed that there is an additional risk of 12 surfers out of 1,000 getting sick when they enter the ocean in wet weather compared to when they do not dive into the ocean.

In other words, there is a 5 percent chance of infection during wet weather and a 2.5 percent chance during the hot season.

The good news is that illness rates were highest when surfing during the rain and the first day after the rain. Disease rates then decreased each day after the rain, declining to near baseline levels after 72 hours.

Therefore, it may not be a good idea to ride waves when rain is falling from the sky.

Stay away from salt water for at least three days. It’s a bit like  a surfer’s ear  : you think it won’t happen to you until it does.

Further Studies

Another study by the UCLA Institute for Environment and Sustainability revealed that bacteria levels in water after storms are alarming.

The scientists studied water quality data from 32 popular beaches in Los Angeles and Orange counties over seven years.

They found that elevated levels of bacteria persisted in the water at beaches located near storm drains and creek outlets.

“Although the three-day rule is simple, it is not applicable to all beaches and is not the best protection of public health,” the UCLA researchers explain.

“Public health agencies should advise bathers to avoid contact with water on closed beaches and affected storm drains, streams, or rivers for at least five days after significant rainfall.”

California surfers are advised to stay out of the water five days after it rains. The three-day rule is appropriate only for open beaches.

The scientists recommend that the Golden State develop a uniform protocol for monitoring and classifying beaches affected by stormwater runoff throughout the state.

British surfers are also three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARBs) in their intestines than non-surfers.

The study carried out by the University of Exeter in conjunction with the environmental organization Surfers Against Sewage revealed that surfers ingest ten times more water from the ocean than people who swim in the sea and do not surf.

The researchers asked UK surfers to provide stool samples to test whether their intestines contained E. coli bacteria that could grow in the presence of a widely used antibiotic, cefotaxime.

Cefotaxime is known to effectively kill E. coli bacteria, but could the surfers have developed adequate resistance to the antibiotic?

After comparing the result with non-surfers, the scientists found that 9 percent of surfers had antibiotic-resistant bacteria, compared to just 3 percent of non-surfers.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest health challenges of our time. We urgently need to know more about how humans are exposed to these bacteria and how they colonize our intestines,” said Anne Leonard, from the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study.

The results are alarming because they confirm that genes can be passed between bacteria, meaning they can potentially spread the ability to resist antibiotic treatment between bacteria.

The research was carried out in England and Wales and analyzed a total of 300 samples.

According to the researchers, around 2.5 million surf sessions take place in British waters each year.

The state of UK marine waters does not differ drastically from international standards.

This leads us to the conclusion that surfers are indeed a vulnerable population, and sewage and waste pollution are serious threats that local authorities and national governments need to urgently address.

At Your Own Risk

If you are willing to sacrifice your health and eventually your life, be sure to do the following immediately after your session is over:

  1. Take a fresh water shower;
  2. Drain mucus and sinuses from the nose and throat;
  3. Disinfect your nasal passages;
  4. Unclog and clean your ears;
  5. Drink a lot of water ;
  6. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and foods rich in vitamin C;

Protect your health. Don’t go surfing after it rains. Check the water quality at your favorite surf breaks before making a decision.

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