Teak surfing is (unfortunately) still around

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2004

Three years ago one of the very first columns that I ran was on teak surfing. The Coast Guard, in partnership with other organizations involved in boating safety had spotlighted a very dangerous practice that was resulting in participants losing their lives. This past week I did some extensive internet searching and it looks like people still have not gotten the message that teak surfing is a dangerous practice and one again all of us involved in boating safety need to reinforce to a new generation of participants that they are playing a deadly game with no winners.

Teak surfing involves a participant, and based on recent press reports this age can go as low as 14, holding onto the back of a boat’s wood diving platform while the vessel is in motion. Once enough speed has been generated, the participant releases him or herself and &uot;rides&uot; over the wake which has been created – essentially &uot;body surfing&uot; the boat’s own wake. The participant increases the &uot;adventure&uot; as the vessel’s speed is increased, thus creating a greater wake and even more momentum.

The name &uot;teak surfing&uot; was derived from the type of wood – teak – used on most recreational boat dive platforms.

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Unfortunately, carbon-monoxide also increases.

The result is that the participant breaths the deadly exhaust fumes pouring from the vessel’s engine. The levels build within your body for every second you ride the wood platform. The faster the vessel moves through the water, the more exhaust fumes were expelled. This type of exhaust travels, according to a Coast Guard Auxiliary report, &uot;on the surface, 10 to 20 feet behind the vessel.&uot; The gases however, posed no threat to the occupants of the vessel, who are safely inside the vessel. Even vessels with inboard/outboard propulsion systems, which discharge exhaust gases through the lower unit to reduce noise, pose a carbon-monoxide threat. The closer that anyone is to the direct exhaust discharge, the greater the risk.

Besides the close proximity to exhaust fumes, teaking has a second danger. Once the vessel is in motion the propellers become an additional serious threat to safety. A sudden motion, especially dramatically reducing speed, reversing the engine’s direction, or quickly turning, could cause a

surfer to touch the prop’s blades. Surfers usually don’t wear personal floatation devices either, so the risk from contact with a spinning propeller is increased even more.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which is very poisonous.

It is produced by a marine engine (and other engines) that doesn’t completely burn solid, liquid or gaseous fuels. Cars produce this gas when the ignition key is turned. The symptoms include headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or mental confusion. The initial symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning has also been compared to food poisoning.

But the end result is much more serious, and often deadly.

How can you – the recreational boater –

protect yourself? VERY SIMPLE – Don’t Teak Surf! Don’t condone it, don’t encourage it and most especially don’t do it! It is a lose-lose activity that is not worth, under any circumstances, the CONSIDERABLE risk.

Until next week, Boat Safe… and Boat Smart!