Four Surfer’s Ear Fallacies Blown Out Of The Water

June 26th, 2016 Michael

Surfer’s ear is a common cause of hearing loss in younger people. It is caused by the cooling of the outer ear and the bone behind it by sea water and wind. Here we will blow four surfer’s ear fallacies out of the water.

1) Alcohol and vinegar mix prevent surfers ear. Many surfers think that a mixture of alcohol and vinegar will protect them against surfer’s ear if they put it in their ears after being in the sea. This is not true. Some people believe that the vinegar dissolves the bony lumps but the overlying skin means that the vinegar does not reach the bone. The mixture is good at preventing swimmer’s ear; infection of the outer ear. Both these agents are effective at killing fungi and alcohol is also good at killing bacteria.

2) A surfer’s ear operation stops the condition coming back. Having your ear canal chiselled or drilled to treat surfer’s ear does not stop it coming back. A significant number of people have the operation more than once. The only way to prevent the condition is to wear ear plugs and a cap whenever you go in the sea.

3) Ear plugs are enough to prevent surfer’s ear. Recent research by ZenPlugs showed that most surfers believed that wearing ear plugs was enough to prevent surfer’s ear. Most were not aware that a cap is also required to keep the condition at bay. This is because the cooling effect of the water and wind also acts on the bone behind the ear.

4) Surfing in summer and tropical waters does not cause surfer’s ear. It seems logical that if surfer’s ear is caused by cold wind and water then surfing in the summer or in tropical waters will not cause the condition. This is not the case. A surfing cap and ear plugs both need to be worn in all conditions because wind chill and evaporation of water from the here and the bone behind it can both cool the area below air temperature.

Summary. The only way to prevent surfer’s ear is to wear a cap and ear plugs. Wear them all year round and in all climates to give yourself full protection.

New Research Explains Why Some Surfers Are 17 Times More Likely To Go Deaf

March 1st, 2016 Michael

If you are a regular surfer it is likely that you have heard of surfer’s ear. It is a condition affecting surfers, sea swimmers and anyone who spends time in the sea without taking precautions.

The cooling effect of the wind and sea water on the outer part of the ear and the bone behind it leads to small bony lumps forming. They gradually grow around the opening to the ear. This leads to progressive deafness and an increased risk of ear infections.

ZenPlugs wanted to find out how much people knew about prevention. In addition they wanted to know how much effect taking precautions makes to the risk of the condition.

They conducted a survey which was completed by 203 people. They found that most people knew that they needed to wear ear plugs only a small minority were aware that they needed to wear a surfing cap as well. The reason for the cap is that it keeps the mastoid bone warm; this is the bony lump behind the ear. It contains air cells which connect to the middle ear space and so cooling here can also lead to surfer’s ear.

The survey found that without any precautions people were developing surfer’s ear after 8 or 10 years of surfing. The more they wore both hat and plugs the longer they went without surfer’s ear. If they wore them for at least 90% of the time they all remained free of the condition at the time of the survey, reducing their risk of surfer’s ear by 17 times. For some people this was after surfing regularly for more than 23 years.

The surfers in the survey had spent an average of 2880 hours in the water. This was from an average of 2 hours per surf, 8 surfs a month and 15 years of surfing. As you can see, they were a keen group of surfers.

Summary. Wearing a surfing cap and surfing ear plugs more than 90% of the time you are in the water reduces your risk of developing surfer’s ear by 17 times.

Beginners guide: Checking the Surf

May 4th, 2012 Jason

You’ll see it at every break on almost any day: the surf check. Non-surfers may be perplexed by the act, and ask, “What’s there to look at?” The more time you spend in the water the more nuanced your surf check will become. A solid surf check will set you up for a better session! Here are some tips to get you started checking the surf.

1. Before you go… There are a couple of things that can save you a lot of gas and energy, usually these things can be checked easily in your local newspaper or online.

  • Tides- check to see if the tide is pushing in or backing out. Get a rough idea of the direction of the tide, and it’s hight, by using a tide chart.

  • Swell size- Usually newspapers will report buoy size. This doesn’t translate exactly to the size of the surf due to factors like islands and points; these block swell energy. Chances are however, if the swell size is gigantic it is not the best day for a beginner to hit the surf.
  • Swell Direction- Is usually noted with an abbreviation like North West (NW) South (S) or South West (SW) depending on where the swell originated. Take notes of how this direction effects conditions at your local break. Many surfing guide publications will tell you what direction works best for a break.

Tip: Has it rained lately? Heavy rains lead to a large amount of runoff. Surfers should pay attention to this as it can have drastic effects on water quality. Poor water quality=greater chance of getting sick! If a heavy rain hits try to wait at least 48 hours before surfing, especially near creek and river mouths.

2. Arriving at your break… From the size of waves to the action of currents, pay special attention to how other surfers interact with conditions.

Hey bros, where's the party at?

  • Is the parking lot full? If this is the case the surf may be especially good. You can often “guestimate” what conditions are like without even leaving your car!
  • How tall are the waves? Surfers often refer to wave heights in terms of human sizes. A “head high wave” is about 5ft tall. A “waist-chest high wave” is 3-4ft tall and so on. See the chart above for more info. “Double” and “triple” overhead waves are 10ft and 15ft tall respectively. These are to be avoided by beginners!
  • Check for rip-tides and long-shore current action. For safety info check out this post on rip-tides. Long shore currents move parallel to a shore, they can be as strong as rivers. Can other surfers sit calmly outside the break, or are they paddling as if they were on a conveyer belt?
  • Where’s the party? Usually surfers will gather into “packs” where the best waves are breaking. However, sometimes it is best to avoid the pack if you don’t feel like competing for waves.
  • Who’s the party with? Is the pack comprised of casual long-boarders or ripping shortboarders? This can say a lot about conditions. Search for a vibe that suits you best.

If you’ve got any tips for checking the surf let us know on Facebook. Check out this Nice Rack post to learn the effects of tide-action on surf conditions! Enjoy your next trip to the beach!

Surfing Beginner’s Guide: Bottom Turn

April 27th, 2012 Jason

So you’re learning to surf and things are going well? We’re stoked for you! If you have a specific goal to reach, or if you just want to see what’s possible there are several building block maneuvers that almost every surfer uses. These are the foundations for aerials, nose-rides, power carves and everything in between. In the following posts I’ll break down the maneuvers with definitions and a few tips. For experienced surfers honing these skills will keep your surfing sharp and allow you to progress as well!

Before these tips become useful you will want to have a good grasp on take-offs, and riding the white-wash straight into shore. It is crucial that you are able to be fully standing before you reach the flat water infront of the sloping wave-face. Look for slow-rolling waves to start.

Bottom Turns

Image from

A bottom turn is a change of direction performed at the bottom/ trough of a wave (as opposed to the face or top of a wave). The function of the bottom turn is to set up for a “ride down the line.” To ride down the line means to ride a wave parallel to to the shore line (technically you’ll be moving towards the shore at an angle. Check out almost any surf video and this is what you’ll see surfers doing!

Advanced surfers will use the bottom turn as a platform for top turns or other maneuvers. This makes bottom turns one of the most important surfing skills, even for pros!

Bottom turns can be done frontside (toes to the wave) or backside (heels to the wave). Follow these steps to get started:

1. Take off with the nose of your board pointed to the beach

2. From take off, ride down the face of the wave (still pointed towards the beach)

3. Point your leading hand towards the unbroken face of the wave. Let your upper body follow the line of your hand and arm.

4. As your upper body opens to the direction you’d like to go, simultaneously weigh your toes(frontside) or heels (backside)

5. As your board and body move up towards the face of the wave unweight your turn and set a path down the line of the wave

Bottom-Turn Tips:

-Steps 1-5 happen in a very short succession. Imagine linking them into one fluid movement and you’ll become one with the wave (or something like that).

-Don’t jam into turns. As you learn to weigh your toes or heels into a turn proceed gently. It doesn’t take a whole-lotta force to turn a surfboard. There will come a time to throw your weight when you become a full fledged power surfer.

-If you find that your body is moving and your surfboard is staying-put (this always ends with a splash) remember to keep your body centered over your board. It’s easy to get excited and leave your board behind.

Remember the bottom turn is the first thing you’ll be doing once you take off. It sets up the entire ride!

In the next beginner’s guide we will tackle top-turns and more.

If you’ve got any tips or great examples of bottom turns let us know on Facebook!