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Dangers in Surf

Lesson Plan: Paddler / Boat / Paddling Dangers at the Beach and in the Surf


To gain an understanding and awareness of the potential dangers associated with surfing and the beach environment and how to recognize them


The student will be able to recognize and reduce dangers associated with the venue and with behaviors, and how these hazards change.  Specifically associated with:

  • Beach
  • Water
  • Weather conditions
  • Other users
  • Equipment use - to other users and themselves
  • Lack of preparedness


  • Introductory discussion on the beach
  • Participatory discussion using Danger Cards or site examples (long session)
  • Toy demonstration of swimming with a kayak and loose kayak (short session)


Dangers associated with the venue
  • Beach – jetty, rocks,  shells, logs, debris, hazards hidden by sand, crowds, kites, toys
  • Water – rips, large / dumping waves, rocks, reefs, shoals, shallow water, fishing lines, buoys, ropes, crab pots, sea animals, kelp, birds, cold water temperature
  • Weather conditions – lightning, strong winds – especially off shore, strong rain

Dangers associated with behaviors
  • Other venue users – kayakers, stand-up surfers, windsurfers, kiteboarders, paddle boarders, body boarders, fisherman, power boats, personal water craft, swimmers
  • Equipment use-
    • unattended or loose kayaks, paddles and boards in the water => hit others, damage
    • being on beach side of kayak when in the surf=>water filled kayaks are heavy and can cause great injury to those they hit
    • lifting or emptying a water filled kayak => proper lifting, help from others, help from wave to release from sand
  • Lack of preparedness – not dressed for the swim, no first aid kit, no radio or phone, inadequate training or instruction not adequate for conditions, lack of rescue equipment or training, no water or snacks, lack of shelter when on beach, no PFD, injury due to technique (shoulder)

Changing hazards
  • Constantly assess immediate circle of danger => it is always changing
  • Be aware that your position may shift
  • As you surf, the hazards will change –
    • new venue users
    • drift vs launch position => rocks, water depth, hidden hazards
    • change in wave conditions => tidal changes, beach slope, weather / wind
    • appearance of sea animals and birds
    • change in weather / wind

Recognizing and reducing hazards
  • Observe => overall venue, immediate circle of danger, behaviors of yourself & others
  • Talk with locals
  • Research (web and books) => surf forecasts, site information, tides
  • Be prepared and trained for the conditions


  • Danger Cards (long lesson)
  • Toy kayaks and kayakers (short lesson)


  • Length – 15 minutes for long presentation; 5 minutes for short discussion on venue and kayak dangers
  • Location – On the beach at venue
Pacific Kayak Surfing Institute,
Sep 14, 2009, 8:49 PM
Pacific Kayak Surfing Institute,
Sep 14, 2009, 8:47 PM
Pacific Kayak Surfing Institute,
Sep 14, 2009, 8:49 PM