I personally love surfing in the rain it’s absolutely beautiful. And I love the fact that when everyone else is staying inside, surfing gives you the opportunity to play in the water. You get wet anyway, right? When was the last time you played in a puddle? Well, as a gidget you get the chance to let your inner child run wild and play in a maaaaaassive puddle ;-)
It’s a bit of a different story if you add some lightning into the mix. Admittedly, there were times when I chose to ignore any lightning and kept on surfing. I mean what are the chances to get hit by lightning… Having said that, I do have a responsibility towards other gidgets when I’m teaching. I wanted to make sure I get the facts straight and won’t put any of my gidgets into any unnecessary danger so I did a bit of research to figure out if surfing in a lightning storm is safe.
Unfortunately, Google returned quite a few hits when I looked for ‘Surfers hit by lightning’. And usually it was more than one surfer hit at any one time. Saltwater is an excellent conductor which explains why it usually cleans up more than one surfer. According to some reports, the ocean is the second most dangerous place to be in in a lightning storm (only an open field comes second). Lightning hits the highest point, which you are if you are sitting or standing on a surfboard. Having said that, sea level is usually lower than the surrounding land so technically it should hit the headlands around you than the line-up. And only 25% of lightning hits the water or land. Most of lightning is between two clouds rather than cloud and land or cloud and sea.
Personally, I will exercise caution next time I’m out surfing in a thunderstorm. I’ll apply the good old flash-to-bang count. If the time between flash to bang is more than 30 seconds, the storm is about 10 km away and as long as it’s not coming closer, I would probably stay in the water. If the storm front is moving my way in the line-up, I’d rather watch the storm from the inside than from the line-up.
Overall, I figured the chances of getting hit by lightning are still very low. Although chances to get hit by lightning are about 30 times higher than getting eaten by a shark*. To answer the question, can you surf in a thunderstorm? I would not necessarily recommend it but if you absolutely hell-bent on going for a surf, I would recommend to apply common sense and closely monitor the movements of the storm. If there is a massive thunderstorm right above your head, get out. You would not necessarily surf at dusk in the middle of a massive fish school in a shark breeding ground either, would you?
Stay safe Gidgets.
*the stats apply to the general population and might look a bit different for surfers and for different parts of planet.