The recent video footage of top surfer Mick Fanning being attacked by a shark during a competition sent shockwaves round the world. Since that incident at the J-Bay Open World Surf League event in South Africa, similar close encounters with sharks have been reported by surfers round the world.
While surfing has traditionally been seen as an adventurous and somewhat risky sport, these brushes with death have led many commentators to discuss whether or not it is now too dangerous for comfort.
Surfing Risks:Shark Attacks
Since recent shark attacks have made the headlines around the globe, it makes sense to start off by considering how big a danger this really is for surfers. The first figure we find when investigating the subject is that on a worldwide basis the annual number of people killed by sharks is a lot lower than you might think. Each year, it is estimated that up to 5 people die due to shark attacks.
Every year it is believed that there are about 75 shark attacks on humans. In the US, the fatality rate is around 1 person every 2 years, although with around 15 attacks annually it is the country with most reported attacks. Australia is the most dangerous place to be in this respect, with 232 deaths caused by unprovoked shark attacks since records began. In fact, records have been kept going all the way back to 1580. In this time, worldwide shark attacks have totaled fewer than 3,000, with just 548 reported fatalities.
Clearly, surfers are more at risk of this than most people, as they spend so much time in the water. However, there is little evidence of surfers being regularly killed by sharks. However, one tragic recent case is that of teenage surfer Elio Canestri, who was killed off the island of Reunion earlier in 2015.
Washed Onto the Rocks
Among the most dramatic video footage of surfing that can be found on YouTube are the videos featuring surfers being washed onto rocks on the shore. This type of accident appears to be fairly common, with videos coming from different parts of the world.
This is clearly a very real hazard for surfers who practice the sport in many places, as the combination of powerful waves and sharp rocks can be extremely dangerous. There are almost certainly a number of these incidents every year and some online investigation reveals details of this terrible accident in Indonesia and this one in Australia.
Perhaps the biggest of the surfing risks is that of drowning. Even hugely experienced swimmers such as pro surfers can get caught up in a massive wave that sweeps them to their death.
Over the years a number of fatalities due to drowning have been reported among surfers. Among the most famous were top class surfers such as Malik Joyeux, Mark Foo and Donnie Solomon.
Of course, when we look at the cases of surfers who have died while taking part in the sport, it is only fair to consider the sportspeople from other sports who suffered the same tragic fate while competing.
If we look at the example of football in the US, we can see that many serious accidents happen each year. In terms of deaths, terrible head injuries are the most common cause. This is relatively uncommon but recent statistics tell us that close to 100 players suffered serious head injuries between 1989 and 2002 in this sport. 8 of them died and 46 were left with some form of permanent neurological damage.
In the case of extreme sports such as base jumping and wingsuit flying, we can see that deaths are fairly common, especially bearing in mind that they are practiced by fewer people than surfing. The recent sad death of Ian Flanders came close on the heels of similarly tragic accidents for Dean Potter and Graham Hunt. There were 3 of the most well-known names in extreme sports and they all died within a couple of months of each other in 2015 while competing.
It is clear from even a cursory glance at the sport that surfing involves a degree of danger. Indeed, it would be easy to say this adds to the exhilaration and feeling of living life to the full for many participants. These people have set out looking for a sport that challenges and gives them constant thrills.
Having said that, the evidence suggests that surfing isn’t quite as deadly as you might think. Those surfers who take the correct precautions and who look after themselves are likely to enjoy years of the sport without suffering serious injuries or death doing it. Surfing doesn’t quite deserve to be classed among the deadliest sports on the planet but the waves definitely deserve your utmost respect and care while you are out there. If you take all of the necessary precautions then you will discover one the most enjoyable and thrilling pastimes around.
This video can help keep you safe