Friday, October 4, 2013

When the Foot Hits The Fin

   With storm season swells on the horizon here in the North Atlantic, it's worth taking note of what's in the old board bag when it comes to first aid. During a recent surf this past spring in north Jersey the waves were macking, and fellow ape Brian paddled into a steep one, nearly making the drop, but in the froth he took a swift fin ding to his foot. It was just shy of needing stitches. Thankfully, from growing up in a medical household in Florida, having no car for the last 10 years, and hunting for big days at Rockaway and Long Beach I've learned to carry some first-aid essentials. 

   After the thrashing, Brian calmly paddled over saying he thought he took a hit, and spun around to show us his foot. Upon first glance, I thought it was a much bigger flapper than it was. I instantly ran down the list in my head of all the items I had back at his car...definitely antiseptic of some sort, and a few old-but-sterile gauze pads for anything "gnarly" (but which probably wouldn't do much in the event of a serious wound). I was pretty confident it was enough to patch him up so I told him specifically where to find it as he reluctantly made the call to end his session.  As Justin and I pondered what to do in the maxing long-period swell, we decided we should check on Brian.  

   Once we all regrouped back on dry land, we made due with what supplies we had, doused it with fresh water and fashioned an ace bandage out of a plastic shopping bag. Afterward he carefully drove us to a nearby grocery store where we stocked up on the essentials and properly treated the gash. With his foot since healed, he is back in the water, but we had all taken home the valuable lesson of traveling with some type of first aid gear. Even if you're not surfing mysto reefs alone down some steep, no-beach cliffs, you can still get hit by your board on a fluke wipe-out, or hell, by someone else's wipeout. There are basic things that might come in handy should anyone suffer an injury. Below is a list of handy items that may save your skin...and maybe even the stuff underneath. 

- Antiseptic like hydrogen-peroxide for your rock, reef, metal, glass or creature injuries
- New Skin Liquid Bandage w/ antiseptic spray is good on medium to large abrasions 
- Sterile gauze pads
- Medical tape
- An ACE bandage
- Adhesive bandages and regular Band-Aids for small cuts and abrasions 
- Aloe or hydrocortisone lotion for gnarly sunburn, skin rashes or jellyfish stings  
- Tweezers for urchins spines or pieces of reef embedded in your skin
- Scissors or a cutting device of some sort
- Ibuprofen (2-4) for pain relief and anti-inflammation (if you can't do ice compressions)
- Sterile gloves for protecting the injured and the "medic" from infections
- Duct tape can't hurt either because you never know

   Keeping some of these items on you when you go to the beach could mean the difference between calling it a day and getting back out in the lineup, or even going to hospital versus going home.

As a bonus, watch this medic demonstrate how to administer CPR here:


Outside Magazine's Guide to First Aid: Rescuing a Drowning Victim

Outside Magazine's Guide to First Aid - First Aid Kit
(*But don't take 12 ibuprofen like they suggest. As seen here, 200-600mg in 12 hours is a safe bet. And always use on a full stomach. Too much Ibuprofen is known to cause stomach ulcers, but it is far safer for your liver than its widely-used counterpart, acetaminophen, aka Tylenol.)

photos by Albert Shelton and Brian Wengrofsky


  1. Keeping a first aid kit handy is something I've never thought about. I have a 12 year old who surfs, so for that reason alone, I think I will put together a kit and keep it in my car at all times.

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  3. I added some updates to the supplies list and addtional informative links

  4. Learned my lesson and filed those fins down smooth. They were nicked so much they felt like serrated knives.

  5. Another helpful thing: my healing stagnated at the start. Got a simple acupuncture treatment around the wound and it immediately healed up. Crazy but it really worked.