Words by Anna Langer
Surfing is amazing, thrilling, exciting, rewarding, challenging, endorphin-inducing, and so much more. We could (and pretty much do) fill a whole magazine describing our favourite summertime activity. But unfortunately there’s no denying that it’s also really freaking dangerous. [Check this gnarly Keala Kennelly face smash if you don't believe us, warning not for the remotely squeamish!]. Most doctors would agree and so those who share this passion have teamed up to make the world of surfing much safer.
It is a lot of work, especially since we’re all volunteers. But someone’s got to start and sacrifice time for their passion and ideology
Lisa explains her commitment for the European Association of Surfing Doctors, a non-profit organisation to improve medical care and treatment of surfers in and out of the water.
But it’s also a lot of fun and the feedback is amazing too, so it definitely pays out
Lisa is one of almost 200 surfing doctors in Europe, medical professionals who don’t just follow the Hippocratic oath to help anyone in need, but also share a passion for riding waves and giving back to the community.
There are a lot more doctors who surf than you would think. And naturally, they are quite different from your regular ‘doctor types’, having much more in common with the free spirit nature and smooth vibes of the surf lifestyle and the corresponding lifestyle.
And as we all know, surfing’s not always just about paddling out, catching waves and having fun – wipeouts are just as much part of the game as the laughs. And when it’s your turn to take the next one, you’ll be much better off with a doctor close by, who not only medically knows how to treat you, but can also retrace where potential injuries came from.
Despite its history, medical data (or research, for that matter) on surfing injuries is still limited. With their annual conferences, basic and advanced rescue and safety courses as well as a global network of experienced medical professionals, the Association of Surfing Doctors is striving to change that. The conferences provide a great platform for surf-enthusiastic healthcare professionals to exchange experiences, expand their knowledge and hone their skills. The next one hosted by the European branch of the Association is taking place in Ireland in Autumn under the lead of Big Wave icon and lifeguard Peter Convoy, with a focus on “Taking Surfing Medicine to Extremes”. In addition to that, the ASD runs yearly courses for basic and advanced surf rescue. “At the courses, we simulate all different kinds of accidents that can occur surfing. From severe spinal or head injuries to simple fin cuts and rashes,” Lisa explains. A surfing lifeguard completes the training with inside information on how to rescue injured surfers from the water in case there are no lifeguards available.
While it would be amazing to have surf doctors on all the spots we surf, it’s not really practical yet. There is a list of all registered surf doctors available on their website though, that you can look and hit up to help you with the aftermath of a surf slam. In G-Land, an especially hazardous reef break in Indonesia, the surf camp has teamed up with the Australian Surfing Doctors who have a regular practitioner set up there in exchange for accommodation. And saved at least one life already, where a surfer had broken their pelvis in a so-called open book fracture that would have had him bleed to death on the way to the hospital if there hadn’t been a experienced and skilled doctor on the spot immediately.
If you’re a surfing health care professional yourself, get involved and join their next Conference for Surfing Medicine on the West Coast of Ireland from September 9-13th 2014! Read more at surfingdoctorseurope.com