The ocean can be both an exciting and dangerous place to be when you are a new surfer. That is why selecting just the right surf spot is so important. With that said, here's a peek at a few attributes beginning surfers should look for when selecting a surfing spot:
Condition of the Sand
Spend enough time visiting the world's beaches and it becomes apparent that some are friendlier to bare feet than others. In my opinion, there is nothing more frustrating than slicing your foot wide open on a piece of broken glass or jagged rock. As such, I'd suggest that beginning surfers look for surf spots that feature soft sandy surfaces with little natural or manmade debris. It is also important to look at the size of the sand grains. They can provide clues as to what the sea bed may look like and what types of waves may be available. Based on my experience, large sand grains are often indicative of waves that are less than ideal for beginning surfers.
Waves are influenced by several things including the contours of a surf spot's sea bed. Although certain aspects of the sea bed change over time, surfers can get a pretty good idea of a surf spot's potential by consulting a bathymetric map. A bathymetric map can help a surfer identify what type of surf breaks the area has as well as areas where rip currents are likely to occur. I would suggest that new surfers look for a sea bed that is known to generate slow, small to moderate waves. Once a surfer's skills improve, a high-energy surf spot would be more appropriate.
Presence of Marine Life
Let's face it, jellyfish stings hurt and shark bites can be fatal. There are also certain areas where jellyfish stings and shark bites are known to be prevalent at certain times of the year. Therefore, it would behoove beginning surfers to select a surf spot where exposure to such creatures is minimal. Of course no surf spot will be totally jellyfish and shark free. After all, the ocean is their home not ours.
Availability of Lifeguards
From my perspective, beginning surfers should also consider selecting a surf spot that has a manned lifeguard station. That way, if a problem does arise, help is nearby. Of course having a lifeguard present is no excuse to forego normal safety precautions or abandon common sense. Beginning surfers should always make sure that they have the physical strength and the swimming skills necessary to surf in a particular area.
Killeen Gonzalez enjoys water sports with her family. She has also traveled extensively.
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