Although surfing is strenuous, it is really relaxing. There is just something about waiting on your board for a good set to come in, spotting your wave and then the wake. Once you ride it in, it just feels so good to know you rode something that is never constant. It is always a different challenge; no two waves are alike.
However, as with all challenging sports, it has its negative effects on your body. The worst thing about surfing is its effect on your skin and hair. The moist, ocean air and the high concentration of salt can really damage my tresses. The UV exposure from being in the sun all day can age you faster than you think it will. You may feel as though you look great with a tan, and I am sure you probably do, the sun is the skin’s worst enemy in high doses. You must take precautions if you are going to maintain your appearance—both in the short term, and the long run.
•Stay Hydrated: As always, stay hydrated. You may not feel as thirsty because you don’t seem to sweat as much and you stay relatively cool because of the water temperature, but you need to drink water. I take a bottle of water or a Gatorade, or Cytomax with me as well. I find the taste of salt water disgusting and it is always good to get the taste out of my mouth. Fresh water doesn’t seem to cut it sometimes.
• Sunscreen & Protective Clothing: It is difficult to keep sunscreen on when surfing. I surf in Malibu, California (Pacific Ocean) so I need a 3.2mm wetsuit and booties, so sunscreen for the body is no issue for me. I can stay in my suit all day if I am in and out of the water regularly. Take a tube of sunscreen with you, however, in case you do take your suit off. Regardless, I absolutely must wear sunblock on my face and for this I use both Anthelios 50+ for all over and Zinka on my nose and cheeks. Bullfrog is also good. It’s active ingredient is Zinc Oxide and is the familiar all white paste, although it comes in 7 colors. Don’t get all vain on me, do yourself a favor and wear it no matter what you think you look like. It truly protects your skin.
• Baby wipes: I don’t find baby wipes to be as useful when surfing, but it never hurts to bring a small pack.
• Lip Balm: Protect your lips!! Not only will they get dry and chapped from the salt water and wind, skin cancer is a risk. Use a lip balm with at least a SPF 15 sunscreen, but a higher SPF is better.
• Mirror: A small compact is a good idea. Use it to check your nose when you come on land. Trust me, you’ll need it. What to do about it in the water? This is going to sound gross, and the first time I ever did it I thought I’d love my Woman Card, but I had to! That’s right, I did the all-too-familiar-gross-and-disgusting blow your nose into your hand and rinse it in the ocean technique. Nice. Or, even worse, which I still cannot bring myself to do, block one nostril and blow. There is NOTHING you can do about a runny nose once you wipe out or nose under a wave. The salt water completely causes mucous formation and Kleenex and paper towels shred when wet. Just forget it, apologize to your friend and get rid of it. When you get on land, then you can use a bandana or hanky, or something, Until then, a runny nose in surfing is as accepted as a runny nose in freefall while skydiving (or in a wind tunnel). Good times.
• Make-up: I usually have make-up on before I surf in the afternoon. It can help block UV light as well as cover blemishes. I may use a foundation and some Bare Escentuals mineral powder. I don‘t carry a touch up kit because it is pointless.
• Hair: If your hair is long and chemically treated, I suggest you apply something like PHYTO PLAGE Protective Sun Veil and keep it up in a scrunchie, or in a ponytail with several ponies down the length. It will get knotted if you let it fly. If you are really dedicated you can saturate your hair with fresh water before jumping into the salt water. Be sure to rinse your hair afterwards. Salt can do a real number on your hair. If you have hair extensions, especially synthetic ones, it usually is not a good idea to braid your hair and go into the water. Instead, leave it in a secured fashion at the base with ponytail holders down its length just as if you had natural hair. I have always been told this, but have not had the ovaries to test it out.
• Nails: I personally like to surf with short nails. You can always grow them out or get a longer set later; it’s better than an injury.
• Special Caution: Eye and Ear Infections: Seriously. I hate to say it but our oceans are nasty. If you’re in L.A. or San Diego, you may wish to wait a few days after a rain to go surfing. The L.A. River gets rinsed out into the bay and can trigger a host of issues for watersports enthusiasts. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard about eye and ear infections after surfing—even when it hasn’t rained for a month. I have been very fortunate not to have had any problems. Just be careful, rinse your eyes out with a saline wash if need be and rinse your ears out well. If you have any new [scabby] tattoos (for instance I have been out of the water for a few weeks since the tattoo I got in Mongolia, however I am ready to drop a wave again), deep open sores (God forbid), or a perforated eardrum, don’t even think about getting in the water until you’re fully healed.
At The End Of The Day
You will feel like showering no matter what. If it’s cold, it will warm you up, if it’s hot it will cool you down and rinse the nastiness from you. Wash your hair with a really good conditioner and don’t forget to apply a good lotion like Aveeno Moisturizing Lotion. Surfing can be harsh on your appearance so be sure to make up for it post-shred.
• Next Week: Hiking & Trekking