As a passionate surfer and a passionate doctor I was thrilled to find out that there was such a thing as a conference which combines health and surfing: The World Conference on Surfing Medicine.
The first conference I ever attended took place in Sagres, Portugal, in 2011. At first, I was anxious to go there all by myself but the week turned into an amazing experience. The conference proved to be the perfect place to meet fellow surf and health enthusiasts. The stoke of the organizers ensured that each presentation and workshop was scientifically up to date, informative and fun.
The aim of Surfing Medicine International (SMI) is to keep surfers healthy and safe. For instance: every 30 seconds somewhere, somebody is drowning. By educating health professionals more knowledge is available for optimal treatment, and by educating surfing health professionals we bring the knowledge to the beach! Come to think of it, almost every surfer has already experienced a dangerous situation in his/her surfing career and educating surfers might make the difference between life and death.
The conference in Sagres had left me stoked and yearning to learn more. So I signed up for the Advanced Surf Life Support Course which is also organized by Surfing Medicine International. This course consists of specialized training units of health professionals in acute care for surfers, both on the beach and in the hospital. A super intense week: each day was filled to the brim with lectures, workshops and lifeguarding (and some surfing of course).
New friendships were made and I especially had a good connection with Vibeke Hjortdal, a cardiothoracic surgeon and surfer. I admired here passion for both surgery and surfing and we have stayed in touch after the course.
After the good times at the conference and ASLS course I decided to get involved with Surfing Medicine International. Over the last few years I have been a member of the conference team. So now I can take part in organizing the very event that got me so excited back in 2011! The conference is held in a different location each year (Sligo, Ireland; Biarritz, France; Sagres, Portugal) and this year we decided to bring it to Newquay, Cornwall.
Newquay turned out to be the perfect location: with several surfspots to choose from and dreamy Fistral beach right in front of the conference location, the Headland Hotel! The big surf community was welcoming and a lot of local health care specialists came to share their knowledge with us. Vibeke Hjortdal attended the conference as well and told us all about cardiothoracic injuries that can occur in surfing and how to handle them.
Besides getting all the up to date knowledge on drowning, chronic surf injuries, antibiotic resistance and a lot more conference participants could also get their ears checked for Surfer’s Ear by one of our ENT specialists.
We had an amazing time organizing the conference – and we’re already working on next year’s event. We are super proud to announce that next year’s conference will be held at Bells Beach in Australia, from 10-13 April 2019. The event will be oben to anyone with an interest in health care and surfing.
In the future, Surfing Medicine International aims to stretch its wings further than to healthcare specialists alone. By educating ALL surfers with basic knowledge on how to handle dangerous situations in the water, we can keep even more surfers safe! On the 1st of November we will organize a Basic Surf Life Support Course in Scheveningen, Netherlands, and more dates for 2019 will be announced soon. Also, Surfing Medicine International launched a free app (SURF FIRST AID), available on ioS and Android. The app features all you need to know about surf first aid that can be really handy when you go on a surf trip to a remote location. It contains info on how to treat certain stings and wounds (don’t use lime!), what to bring in your first aid kit and all the international alarm numbers.
What started as a tentative visit to an interesting sounding conference turned into being part of the Surfing Medicine family. Our mission is to keep the surfer healthy and safe, spread our knowledge – and have tons of fun together ☺