Posted on April 06 2021
Ideal surfing days are once again upon us. We all anticipate those summer days with warm water, beautiful skies, and perfect waves. Just you, your board, and the ocean. Days like those could rank up there with our favorites.
Until the surf rash flares up.
We’ve all been there. Those red, bumpy areas on our thighs, armpits, stomach, or chest flare up… and the “best day ever” suddenly becomes not so great. Most surfers struggle with surf rash at some point during their years pursuing the waves, so you’re not alone. But there are ways to prevent it from happening in the first place, or from getting worse.
Why does surf rash happen?
Our skin naturally softens when exposed to water for prolonged periods of time. Salt water also strips skin of its natural oils. These events are not necessarily harmful on their own, but they do make skin more vulnerable to friction-related irritation. Irritation can be caused by a few things:
- Boardshorts rubbing against your skin
- Wetsuit seams or incorrect cut
- Friction from a surfboard
- Surf wax, which is sticky and grips skin
Sometimes surf rash will clear up on its own. Other times it may need a little help. Over the counter topical medication options are available, as are all-natural remedies you can concoct yourself. You can even use petroleum jelly-based products to prepare your skin before you surf. The danger is when it doesn’t clear up and leads to infection (or even scars).
Surf rash infection
A single dip in the ocean can change the microbes on your skin. The normal bacteria of the skin microbiome are washed off and replaced with ocean bacteria. That change lasts about a day. Ocean bacteria is not particularly harmful to healthy people. But that bacteria can cause an infection if you have open sores from your surf rash. The best habit is to shower soon after your surfing session, and to properly care for your skin afterwards.
How to prevent surf rash
There are ways to prevent surf rash in the first place, or to reduce it when it occurs. These options include different surf wear to prevent consistent skin friction in the same place on your body. Ladies, these suggestions are for you:
Long sleeved zippered swimsuit
Certain swimsuits will cover more of your skin and prevent direct skin contact with sticky surf wax or your surfboard. A bonus is they often offer better sun protection as well. Look for sun protective swimsuits with long sleeves and thumb holes, plus a high neck or zipper option to protect your arms, armpits, and chest from surf rash.
Spring Suit (surfing suit)
A great option for surfers is a Spring Suit with boy cut shorts and long sleeves. Spring Suits are made from a soft neoprene fabric and have stretchy long sleeves. These fabric combinations offer superior sport performance for surfing, rowing, kayaking, and more. The 50+ UPF sun protection prevents sunburn, while the arm and shorts coverage help to minimize surfboard and wax friction on bare skin.
The classic rash guard is also an option to prevent surf rash. These long-sleeved shirt-style garments can be pulled on and off as needed, provide sun protection, and protect your arms and armpits.
Preventing surf rash (or reducing its impact) can be done with proper preparation, surf wear, and post-surfing care. Your surfing days will be much more comfortable when you follow those steps.
That means better surfing days are ahead!