Hypothermia is a serious danger you can be exposed to as a surfer. In the Netherlands the risk of hypothermia occurs in all seasons, even in the summer. In this article I will address:
- What hypothermia is
- What the signs of hypothermia are
- How to prevent hypothermia
- What to do if you do get hypothermic
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature is too low. Normally your body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and your body can only function well at this normal body temperature. When it drops below 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) signs of hypothermia can appear.
How can you recognise hypothermia?
The danger of hypothermia is that you can hardly recognize the signs. You become pale, start to shiver and feel very tired. Your movements will become less coordinated and laboured. This obviously does not improve your ability to surf back to land or climb back on your board when you feel the first signs.
How to prevent hypothermia?
Good preparation to the circumstances is the best way to prevent hypothermia. Inform yourself about the weather conditions and choose the type of wetsuit to match these weather conditions. Loss of body heat is most prominent through your head. A neoprene hat of headband can prevent this. It can also help to keep your surf material in good condition to prevent calamities. Also a good physical condition can help to prevent exhaustion.
It’s useful to know the fastest way out of the water at your surf spot, to shorten the time in the water as much as possible. If you’re surfing on your own, tell your friends where the spot is. Of course you can also go surfing with a buddy, so you can help each other.
How do you treat hypothermia?
When hypothermia is severe, you will not be able to treat yourself. One of your surf buddies will have to warm you up. In severe cases call the national alarm number (Europe: 112, USA: 911).
Water conducts heat much better than air, so be sure to dry a hypothermic person quickly. It is very important to warm a surfer gradually, because quick deterioration can occur if you warm up too quickly.
Warm drinks can help a surfer to warm up and they give energy. Never give a windsurfer alcohol, because it will only aggravate the hypothermia.
Be prepared on the circumstances when you hit the water. This way you can enjoy the windsurfing sport even in cold conditions.