A Tsunami Of Surferes Amidst A Global Pandemic Leads To Safety Issues In Our Oceans

According to research by Technavio, the Global Surf Market is estimated to grow another $2.74 billion USD before 2024. But this rapid growth comes with its repercussions that have been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A US-based Surf Industry study that was published during the pandemic estimated that the surfing population in the USA grew by over 2.2 million. Broken down, that’s about 6,000 new people daily, many of whom lack adequate experience and ocean safety knowledge.

Simultaneously, the amount of safety lectures on open water or related environments has experienced a dramatic decrease of -69% since 2019. Unfortunately, the rapid growth in adventure water sports participants – coupled with an absence of safety outreach & lectures – could likely be responsible for the significant increase in surf-zone medical aids. The U.S. Lifesaving Association – a nonprofit professional association of beach lifeguards and open water rescuers in the United States – reported a shocking +260% increase in total surf injuries within three years, nationally.

To put it in perspective, think if you had 6,000 new drivers each day on the road, and many of them never got a permit or received adequate training. That’s a serious safety hazard. This is the type of reality that we are facing in the water, especially in local surf lineups. Something needs to happen, and it needs to happen fast,” says Yehuda Ben-Hamo, Founder of The CORE Project, an ocean safety organization based in San Diego.

The 2021 San Diego Summit

In response to the increase in injuries and lack of available ocean safety training, The Core Project is partnering with the Big Wave Risk Assesment Group (BWRAG) to host the 2021 San Diego Summit at the San Diego Mission Bay Resort on Nov. 13-14, 2021.

In March of 2021, two surfers collided – resulting in one fatality and another traumatic brain injury – at Rincon Point, one of C.A. ‘s most iconic and coincidentally, most crowded surf beaches along the coast. “Since then, there have been many similar incidents – luckily non-fatal – but where surfers suffered traumatic injuries that could’ve been avoided if both parties were more educated. This is something that is becoming a lot more common at popular surf breaks and poses serious threats for many recreational surfers and ocean enthusiasts,” says Ben-Hamo.

“Surf injuries were the number one calls that our lifeguards responded to in the last several years,” says Larry Giles, Encinitas’ Former Chief Lifeguard. Surf-zone injuries and medical aids have been steadily increasing. “The recent increase in both beach and ocean water sports attendance continues to add exponential stress on marine safety resources,” says California State Park Lifeguard Chad Sambell.

California’s marine safety experts warn that 2021’s numbers will likely increase, and that they’re taking appropriate measures to combat these issues for the upcoming year. “We desperately need to implement more widespread ocean safety measures and support groups – like The CORE Project and BWRAG – who are working to address these issues,” states Sambell.

The CORE Project

The CORE Project is a local ocean safety organization started in memory of Encinitas Surfer & Lifeguard, Blake Dresner, who suffered a fatal surfing accident in 2020. The CORE Project is committed to safeguarding ocean recreation through research, outreach, and education. “Ocean sports are unique in regards to their accessibility. You don’t need to buy a lift ticket or pay for a membership; you can go and purchase a soft board from Costco, head to the nearest beach, and jump right out there with others who’ve had 10+ years of experience. You can only imagine the repercussions this is causing, not only putting newcomers at risk but everyone else who’s been safely recreating at their local beach for years prior. Not everyone can afford a lesson by a certified instructor, and that’s why we’re working to develop mass education tools, free for public use, to help mitigate these issues,” says Ben-Hamo.

Dedicated to making a difference, The CORE Project is teaming up with the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) – a group of renowned medical professionals, watermen, and athletes specializing in water-safety training for surfers and ocean enthusiasts – to help assist with their in-person ocean safety summit known as the San Diego Surf Responder Summit. The 2021 San Diego Summit hosted by BWRAG will take place at the San Diego Mission Bay Resort on Nov. 13-14, 2021. It’s co-presented by Changing Tides Foundation and JuneShine and will be led
by BWRAG Master Instructor and big-wave legend Greg Long, BWRAG Master Instructor Pat
Chong Tim, BWRAG Instructors Ryan Hargrave, Jon Hoover, and more.

The two-day course

Though the course heavily focuses on surfing-based emergency scenarios, the knowledge and training are beneficial for any beach emergency. The Summit is welcoming all ocean enthusiasts regardless of age, background, and ability level. The two-day course will include classroom training covering hands-on instruction in apnea theory, breathing technique, surf break analysis, CPR/AED and medical intervention training, emergency action planning, safety equipment selection, as well as high-surf risk management theory. The In-water portion will offer attendees instruction on unassisted and surfboard-assisted rescues of conscious and unconscious victims, as well as training in jet ski-assisted rescues.

Completing the event will award attendees with CPR/AED + First Aid certifications and a BWRAG safety certificate that can be presented to Patagonia to purchase their PSI vest. On the opening of in-person summits, BWRAG Chief Master Instructor and Hawaiian watermen, Brian Keaulana said: “We are thrilled to resume our in-person training with finally the global surf community. We know that the winter season is right around the corner for the Northern Hemisphere, so our focus is to offer the summits we can get in 2021 within the 5,700-mile stretch between Puerto Rico and Hawaii.”

Join us!

We truly believe that EVERYONE deserves equal access to a safe and reliable coastal playground. That’s why we are encouraging others to join us in attending the BWRAG San Diego Surf Responder Summit on November 13-14th so that they can help protect the lives of others during an emergency scenario, creating safer coastal and surf communities for all,” says Ben-Hamo.

In addition to the two-day Summit, BWRAG + The CORE Project will hold a special Talk Story event on Thursday, Nov. 11 at JuneShine’s Scripps Ranch Brewery, located at 10051 Old Grove Rd, San Diego. The Talk Story is free and open to members of the public who are 21 years of age or older.

Registration for the 2021 San Diego Summit is now open. Learn More About The CORE Project and how to register up for the Summit here.

See you there, San Diego!

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