Surfing and Hypothermia

Hypothermia kills more surfers each year than sharks. Caused by prolonged exposure to low temperatures, winds or moisture, hypothermia can afflict and potentially kill anyone, from the hardiest mountaineer to a toddler lost on a winter walk.
One of the most worrying facts about hypothermia is that it can occur anywhere, and has much more to do with spending a long time with the body’s temperature even slightly below normal than it does with a quick sprint to the car and back in freezing conditions. Hypothermia isn’t something that’s caught like a virus; it develops silently and slowly.
Winter surfers are at particular risk. Surf wear and wetsuits play important roles in offsetting the potential hazards and effects. 5mm winter wetsuits are crucial for surfers intending to brave the unpredictable UK waters. Warm winter surf wear is vital to return the body sensibly to its optimum temperature afterwards.
Symptoms include being generally cold and irritable (often accompanied by frenzied, uncontrollable shivering), impaired speech/vision/communication skills, clumsy and random movements, an irregular heartbeat or breathing rate, intense stiffness, unconsciousness, delirium and incredibly bad decision-making skills (e.g. ignorance to freezing conditions, taking off all their clothes because they believe they’re too hot)
An exasperating element of hypothermia is that to identify the symptoms accurately a person generally needs to be unaffected. Mountaineering magazines, medical journals, sailing magazines surf blogs – around this time of year their pages become encumbered by warnings.
Cautionary tales are common. Often they’re of confused surfers paddling along the beach (sometimes within distance to return) in the late twilight semi-darkness, confused and clumsy with hypothermia, before finally succumbing to the erroneous belief that they are, in fact, burning up (in the freezing water), removing their wetsuit and dropping off their board into the dark water to “warm up”. In fact, all that awaits them is generally an icy death.
In cases of suspected hypothermia, wrap the surfer in something warm (don’t rub, just wrap snugly), try to avoid leaving them alone and seek urgent medical attention.

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