Should I Shower After Surfing? (Benefits & Practical Tips)

Robert Elgar

There are not many things that make you feel as fresh and energized as a good surf session. 

Because we feel so fresh after a surf, it is often the case that we do not take a shower before going on with our day.

However, it is always a good idea to shower, or at least take a freshwater rinse after surfing.

The ocean is a dirty place, and not rinsing off the salt can lead to various health problems such as eye and ear infections, dry skin and hair, as well as damage to your wetsuit and surfboard.

Below we will take a look at why it is important to shower after a surf, as well as your options when there is no shower at the beach.

Why Should I Shower After Surfing?

There are two main reasons for showering after a surf. The first is because of bacteria in the ocean, and the second is the salty nature of ocean water.

Bacteria in the Ocean

The ocean, although salty, is full of bacteria. The bacteria in the ocean are halotolerant, meaning that they can survive in highly concentrated salt solutions.

This, along with the increasing pollution being introduced to the ocean has created a breeding ground for infection.

Some beaches such as many in the famous surf region of Florida, are so polluted from sewage runoff that it is recommended not to enter the water.

However, this often will not keep surfers away when the waves are firing.

Removing this bacteria as soon as possible is always recommended to avoid health issues.

Salt in the Ocean

The ocean is salty, and unlike the bacteria that thrive in these conditions, humans do not.

Because of the process of osmosis, salt draws out moisture from our skin and hair.

This is generally not a health issue unless it has been taken to an extreme. However, it could lead to brittle hair and skin irritation.

It is best to remove excess salt from the body as soon as possible to avoid an extended loss of moisture from the skin.

What if I Don’t Shower After Surfing?

Deciding not to shower after a surf will not necessarily lead to any negative effects. However, it will increase the chances.

Besides that itchy feeling that the dried saltwater leaves on your skin, the following are factors you should keep in mind when leaving the water.

The Effects of Ocean Bacteria on Health

The bacteria in the ocean can lead to many health problems such as eye infections like pink eye and ear infections such as surfers’ ears.

When the skin has been opened from a wound or a new tattoo, the bacteria can lead to, in severe cases, blood poisoning.

According to WebMD, flesh-eating bacteria are not all that uncommon around coastlines and beaches that are situated near large cities or settlements.

According to research presented on the same platform, an estimation of 90 million cases of stomach, eye, ear, and skin-related illnesses are recorded each year in the US, with an added 1500 cases of necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria).

The Effects of Ocean Salt on the Body

As mentioned above, when your skin or hair is exposed to salt over a long period of time, they will quickly lose moisture.

Besides aiding in creating that curly surfer’s hair that is sought after by many, this is not an ideal situation.

Although there is some research into the benefits of ocean water on the skin due to the minerals and salts in the water, leaving the salt on your body after leaving the ocean will cause your skin to dry out, flake, and become itchy.

Should I Wash My Hair After Surfing?

In the same way that salt draws out water from the skin, it draws out water from your hair. 

Long exposure to salt can lead to hair becoming dry, brittle, and frizzy.

It is always a good idea to wash your hair after leaving the ocean. Not only will this help remove excess salt, but will wash out unwanted bacteria.

Depending on the cleanliness of the water at your chosen beach, a simple freshwater rinse may be enough.

In dirtier water, it is best to use a non-oil-stripping hair cleaner.

Should I Use a Special Shower Gel or Shampoo?

When it comes to health and wellness, there is a product for everything you can think of.

However, this does not mean that they work or that they are necessary.

Special shower gel and shampoo for after surfing is no different from their regular counterparts.

That being said, one thing that should be kept in mind when washing your hair after a surf is that shampoo is generally a bad idea.

Why?

Shampoo strips the hair of its natural oils, which is what the salt from the ocean does. Overdoing this will increase dryness in your hair.

If you feel that the ocean water is particularly dirty and there is a need for shampoo, then make sure to use an oil-based substance such as coconut oil, or leave-in conditioner in order to retain some moisture.

What if I Have to Go to Work After Surfing?

There is nothing like an early morning surf before spending a day at work, but as good as that surf can be, getting dressed into your work clothing covered in salt and sand can leave you feeling uncomfortable for the remainder of the day.

If you are going straight from the beach to work, you have two options: Use the public showers at the beach to rinse off, or use a portable shower.

What if There’s No Shower Nearby?

As mentioned above, if there are no available showers at the beach and you are not able to go home after your surf, you could make use of a portable shower.

In this case, you also have the option of finding a public tap and using a bucket to rinse off, or bringing a few bottles of fresh water with you to rinse off the majority of seawater from your body.

Are Portable Showers for Surfers Useful?

If you are the type of surfer that likes to stay away from crowded beaches and has a few favorite surf spots in the middle of nowhere, there are likely no showers in sight.

In this case, a portable shower is a perfect solution.

Portable surfing showers (which were originally made for camping) come with two main designs.

The first is a pressurized version, and the second is a hanging bag.

Not everybody may feel that a pressurized shower is necessary when washing off the saltwater, so a smaller pocket shower may suffice for them.

An idea of how to make the most with this system is to accompany it with a bucket.

If you know there will be no fresh water at the beach, make sure you bring enough for your portable shower, as well as for a bucket to rinse off your wetsuit.

Alternatives to Portable Showers

If you don’t want to spend the cash on a portable shower but still need a quick rinse before going on with your day, there is an (almost) free option.

Simply bringing a few water bottles with you to the beach and using them to rinse off the majority of salt from your skin and hair could be enough to get you through the next few hours until you have access to a shower.

Does It Make Sense to Shower Before Going Surfing?

As it is always in your best interest to take a shower after a surf, there are not many reasons why it would make sense to shower before you get into the ocean.

However, there are two situations in which a pre-surf shower can be beneficial.

1. You are going to work after the surf and will not be able to take a full shower

Although the ocean can be cleansing, it may not give you that clean fresh smell that a full shower will. 

If you need to leave the beach and head straight to work with only a portable shower or bottle rinse, it may be worth taking a shower beforehand in order to take advantage of your soap.

2. You suffer from dry hair and would like to protect it

Wetting your hair with fresh water before entering the water will help protect your hair and scalp from a loss of moisture.

Although this will not prevent it completely, the salt will draw out the excess water before drying out your dry and brittle hair.

What if I Go Surfing Several Times per Day?

Perhaps you are the type of person that enjoys spending the entire day at the beach, getting in and out of the water as the swell changes.

You may also live close to a wave break and enjoy coming and going multiple times throughout the day.

If this is the case, and you find yourself surfing multiple times in a day, is it still important to shower after each surf?

It is not necessary to take a full shower after each surf. However, it is still a good idea to rinse off when possible.

As mentioned above, the ocean is home to a large number of bacteria which can lead to stomach problems if ingested. 

If you do not plan to shower after each surf, it is important to properly wash your hands clean of all seawater before eating.

Although you should keep your skin free of ocean water and bacteria as much as possible, it is only necessary to clean your surfboard and wetsuit once you are done surfing for the day.

Conclusion

Although the ocean is salty, it is still a breeding ground for bacteria. That, along with the salinity, is a combination that is less than beneficial for your health.

It is always a good idea to take a freshwater shower after surfing. 

Not only will it leave you feeling cleaner for the day, but will greatly decrease your chances of ocean-derived ear and eye conditions, as well as skin rash and infections.

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