Your surfboard is like a flotation device that you usually rely on, until you break your leash.
It happened to most of us, and you can’t really avoid it at some point. It usually occurs when you get in a bad wipeout, or when you are caught up in a big set and you didn’t/couldn’t duck dive. What that means is that you are 80% of the times in the impact zone when you realize that you are board-free, which is not the most comfortable place to be.
It also happens quite often when you kick out of a wave, and only you get out of it, not your board, and then you hear that “clic” and well…you know.
1) Relax and/or pray
If that’s your thing, you can start praying. Chances are that it’s going to be a stressful moment that will feel endless, especially if that’s your first time. So if there anything that can make you NOT panic, then do it. If one of these things include talking to a god of your choice, then it’s not a bad idea.
No one likes losing his board. But worst things that can happen to you will occur if you start panicking. So, do whatever you can to relax. Breathe, sing a song, think about something you like such as cute cats, nail art and cupcakes…you get the idea. Most importantly, start to make plan for an exit strategy (once you are relaxed).
If you are with friends/ in a crowded line up, it will be a lot easier, unless your friends are assholes, but there is nothing you can do about that.
2) Ask for help
If you are not surfing alone, then ask someone if he can bring you back on shore or at least closer. It might affect a bit your ego, but it’s better to be ashamed than dead.
All surfers know how stressful it when your leash broke. Most of them will happily help you. Then it’s a tandem bodyboarding situation, which is still far better than swimming on your own in most cases, and a lot faster. Remember that you owe him one, a beer is a good reward, as he will have to return to the peak afterwards, so double effort for him. And trust me, you will love this guy.
Which also means another thing, when you see a guy without board in a tricky situation, don’t be a dick. Ask him if he needs help is the minimum you can do, and if he looks like he is half drowning or panicking, don’t even ask. As gopro says, be a hero.
If you are on your own or if your friends are too far and can’t hear/see you because of winter hoodies or because they are deaf/blind (yes that’s a personal story here) then it will be a bit more tricky which leads us to the next poit.
3) Plan your exit and manage your energy
It can sometimes take a while before you will be on shore, and 10 min in this situation will appear endless to you. So remember that besides not panicking, you need to take into consideration that you are not floating anymore, so you will have to manage your energy carefully if you don’t want to make anything worse. No one asks you to get back in 10min, so take your time.
It might be wiser to duck dive the biggest bombs before heading back if you are stuck in impact zone. You don’t have board anymore anyway, so it should be quite easier that a normal duckdive. Do it especially if you are not comfortable in swimming in waves. It will avoid you to be too much worked out which could suck out your energy if you are not used to it, and probably make you a little bit more stress than you already are. So take your time until you are ready.
When you think waves are appropriate for a return ticket, then go for it, soaking like a tea bag won’t make you come back after all…
4) Go into the waves
That’s probably the main thing to remember, even if your brain is begging you to choose what it looks to be a safer option. Shut it down for a moment, your brain is full of shit in this situation, especially if you are panicking. Human beings are not aquatic by nature, and our deeper instincts in the ocean are usually not appropriate to say the least, when not completely wrong.
Never paddle to the channel or quiet water, as it will most likely suck you back out, and I guess that’s not what you want to do! So just go for a medium wave set, bodysurf it like a king or get pounded trying. Don’t get to picky, just take one, the more you hesitate, the scarier it will be. If that’s the first time you bodysurf, you will wipe out anyway, so just take the beating and move on. Repeat the same with the white water until it pushes you out of impact zone. Be careful with whitewater, especially if it’s a big day. It pushes you out, but it can be a beating too. One option for big white water swimming is to swim beneath it and get pulled by it (so stay behind) rather than staying in front of it and waiting to be pushed. Easier said than done though.
5) Swim, swim swim
Depending on the nature of the spot, the swimming part can be quite long. Relax, you are out of big troubles at this point. Just swim at a good pace, not too fast, not too slow. Endurance rythm. Manage your energy carefully, it’s a matter of minutes before you can put your feet on the ground.
If your board is close by and you can reach it, then try as it will be welcome to rest on it and get back floating. If it’s too far, forget it, get back safely first and you will think about your equipment later. Again, you prefer a broken or lost board than being dead.
6) Kiss the ground
Not a mandatory step, but it will add a bit of drama to your story, a lost at sea/pirate kind of touch, and since you’ve been through hell for 5min, it totally worth it. Especially if there was people watching your little adventure from the beach. You made it champ’, enjoy!
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
- DO NOT PANIC
- GO FOR THE WAVES, NOT THE CHANNEL
- ASK FOR HELP
Let us know your scariest leash snaps in the comments!