« Good Practice Guide
In an emergency:
If you get into difficulties never abandon your board (it will keep you afloat), stick your hand up and shout for help
If you see someone else in difficulty, tell a lifeguard or dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard
Being located on the sheltered south coast means Dorset is a great place to learn to surf with surfing schools and lots of places to hire boards dotted along the coast. Dorset’s natural reef offshore means that waves form well even though they don’t get a lot of groundswell so places like Kimmeridge Bay, on the right day, can be great surf spots for more experienced surfers. Other popular surf spots include Bournemouth Beach by the pier and at Southbourne.
What do I need?
- A surf board with a leash – there are lots of different types of surfboards depending on your ability. Always wear a leash as it prevents you from losing your board or hitting another sea user.
- A Wetsuit – this will keep you warm and protect your skin from rubbing on your surfboard. It also can protect you from the sun.
- Wax – you apply this to the deck of your board to give you grip.
- Helmets and buoyancy aids are essential if you are not a confident surfer.
When is the best time to do it?
Optimal surfing in Dorset can traditionally be found between September and April but in reality surfing can be good all year round on the Dorset coast. You should always check the weather, tides and currents before you go out surfing. During winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight – this all needs to be taken into consideration. iCoast has a great water sports weather forecast and links to webcams along the Dorset coast which makes it easy for you see when and where you will be able to get the best surf.
Planning your trip
Watch out for the wildlife:
- The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds. These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife. On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity.
- Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – by all means look, but then move on.
- Kimmeridge, a surf spot for advanced surfers, is part of The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve (PMWR), the longest established Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve in the UK. The reserve is home to a wide variety of seaweeds and rockpool life such as sea anemones, crabs and fish. This makes surfing at Kimmeridge even more special but it is important that surfers respect this fragile habitat by watching where they put their feet.
- Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for other users
Some surf spots in Dorset are also popular beaches for swimmers, kite surfers, wind surfers, jet skiers and more. To make sure that everyone enjoys their time on the Dorset coast please:
- Do not surf between the red and yellow flags– these indicate the safest areas to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables. These areas are not for surfers.
- The black and white flags are for you — Surf between the black and white flags– These areas are for surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and other non-powered craft. This means that the lifeguards can still keep a safe eye on you and there shouldn’t be any swimmers. Find out which beaches have surf lifeguards on the Dorset coast using iCoast map.
- Respect other surfers– See RNLI’s surfsport safety leaflet
- Always wear a surf leash to prevent you from losing your surfboard (or bodyboard) and it hitting another sea users.
- Be considerate of other beach users especially when carrying your board to and from the water.
- Ministry of Defence firing ranges have (sea danger areas) restrictions in place for all water and coastal users. Turn on the restricted layer on iCoast to find out where these areas are.
Watch out for the environment
- Take home all your rubbish – discard rubbish found in the sea or on beaches spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine creatures and birds and can be a hindrance to fishermen with litter getting tangled up in their nets. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.
- Make sure you hire equipment from Surf Hire Safety Scheme Members –In recent years, over 40% of RNLI lifeguard incidents were boarding related so the RNLI and the British Surfing Association have created the Surf Hire Safety Scheme to reduce incidents. Scheme members have agreed:
- to only rent out equipment suitable to your ability
- to provide safety information to all customers
- to check equipment regularly for damage
- to maintain adequate insurance
For more information visit Surf Hire Safety
- Wherever possible, always surf at a lifeguarded beach and follow the advice of the lifeguards. Novices should only ever surf between the black and white flags.
- Always wear your leash and if you get into trouble never abandon your board – it will keep you afloat.
- Never surf alone.
- Keep in touch with someone on the shore– Always tell somebody responsible where you are going and when you will be back. They will be able to raise the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they get worried and you are not back on time.
- Follow the advice above on how to respect other users – this will help avoid any collisions.
- Check your board for damage before use.
- Know your limits – do not get in the water in conditions above your capability.
- Check the weather and tides and be aware of local hazards– Learn to interpret tide tables and weather forecasts.
- Be sun smart
- Always wear SPF factor 30 and above waterproof sun cream. Reapply frequently.
- Drink plenty of fluids as you dehydrate faster while exercising.
- Consider taking a rest and seeking shade during the hottest part of the day.
- Look out for rip currents– You can spot a rip current by looking out for:
- discoloured, brown water (caused by sand being stirred up from the seabed)
- foam on the water’s surface.
- debris floating out to sea.
- a rippled patch of sea, when the water around is generally calm.
If you are caught in a rip or strong current, obey the three Rs:
- Relax – Stay calm and float. Do not swim against the current, swim across it.
- Raise – Raise an arm to signal for help. If possible shout to shore for help.
- Rescue – Float and wait for assistance. Do not panic, people drown in rips because they panic. Obey directions from the lifeguard.
Help, I’ve been stung!
- Weever-fish – If you feel a sharp scratch on your foot while in the water that becomes more painful you may have stood on a weever-fish. Don’t panic but find a lifeguard for treatment. If there’s no lifeguard, place the affected area in water as hot as is comfortable. Test the water first so you don’t cause scalding.
- Jellyfish – Do not rub a jellyfish sting, as this will cause the pain to intensify. Lightly spray the area with seawater and apply a cold compress if available.
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