No one likes getting hurt, but unfortunately, every now and then (more often for some than others) we find ourselves injured, sometimes with wounds large enough to need stitches.
If you are in this situation, and you’re addicted to surfing, you may be wondering if you can still surf.
So, Can I Go Surfing With Stitches?
If you have stitches you should never go surfing. Not only will the dynamic movements of surfing likely tear open your stitches, but the bacteria in the ocean can be incredibly dangerous when exposed to open wounds.
Let’s look at how stitches are affected by surfing, what you can do if you want to surf with a wound, and the possible consequences of ignoring these warnings.
Can I Go Surfing With Stitches?
If you want to know if you can surf with stitches, the answer is yes, there is no reason why you can’t, however, if your question is should you, then the answer is very different.
Surfing with stitches can be dangerous and should be avoided.
Depending on where the stitches are, and how many there are, the various twists, turns, jumps, and swoops of surfing can cause the stitches to come loose.
This will mean an open wound and another trip to the hospital.
Furthermore, and possibly, more importantly, the ocean is full of bacteria, some of which can be incredibly dangerous to humans if ingested or when entering the bloodstream.
What Are the Dangers of Surfing With Stitches?
As mentioned above, you should avoid allowing your open wounds to make contact with the ocean.
Although stitches are closed, there are still dangers of exposing them to a surfing situation before they have sufficiently healed.
Infection is the main concern when entering the ocean with stitches or an open wound.
Although saltwater is used to clean cuts, the ocean is full of bacteria that thrive in saltwater, thus making its cleaning properties irrelevant.
Allowing this bacteria to enter your bloodstream can lead to serious, and sometimes life-threatening situations.
TO avoid this you should try to avoid beaches that are known for their dirty waters. One such example is South Beach, Florida, which is known as the most polluted beach in the U.S.A.
Sharks, the nemesis of the surfer (or so people think).
Sharks can smell blood from kilometers away, and when hungry, will be attracted by the scent.
Entering the ocean with a wound that’s not properly healed can attract sharks and other dangerous sea life, which is not what we want when you are floating in the backline.
Breaking the Stitches
Surfing and performing other physically intense activities when your stitches are new can cause them to rip out.
This is not only painful, but it will further expose your wound to the ocean, likely tear some more skin, as well as leave you with a painful paddle back to the beach, and another unwanted trip to the doctor’s office.
It’s a good idea to allow your stitched area to heal to a point where it’s no longer tight and pulling.
Tearing the Wound
Because of the various movements, you will be making during a surf, your stitched area will be under a lot of pressure from the stretching and twists.
Even if your wound is on the mend, making quick movements in the area could tear your wound open again.
This could be as easy as restitching it, but could also result in you further tearing the skin and ending up with a cut worse than the first one.
How Many Days After Stitches Can You Swim?
According to Catherine Hannan, a board-certified plastic surgeon from Washington, D.C., it takes approximately 24 – 48 hours for epithelial cells to regrow over a wound that has been sutured.
This means it can take up to three days for your laceration or cut to be closed off from moisture and bacteria.
According to the same surgeon, it’s best to avoid submerging your wound in water for at least a week from the point that the stitches were completed.
This is especially important when you will be swimming in the ocean or a lake as there is likely more bacteria present than in a well-maintained swimming pool.
That being said, because surfing is fast and requires many movements, 1 – 2 weeks is best, or until you can see the wound has healed.
Can You Surf With a Cut?
Surfing with a cut or open wound is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
As mentioned above, the coastlines that surround cities are polluted, and often contain high quantities of sewage water and runoff from the dirty city streets.
According to WebMD, this bacteria (often flesh-eating) is not at all uncommon around coastlines, and in some cases, can lead to amputation of limbs, and death due to blood infections.
Apart from the flesh-eating bacteria, open wounds tend to attract predators such as sharks.
Although shark attacks aren’t common, there is always the risk, and entering the ocean with an open wound only invites sharks to the area.
Even if you find yourself surfing a break with no sharks, you should avoid allowing your open cuts to make contact with the ocean.
What’s the Best Way to Cover Up Some Stitches When I Surf?
To protect your newly stitched wound from bacteria and moisture, you may want to cover it up for your first few surf sessions (if they happen to be around the same time you got your stitches).
For smaller wounds, waterproof plasters or bandages will work perfectly. They are flexible and will keep most, for not all the water away from your stitches.
For larger areas you may want to allow more healing time, however, if you just can’t stay away from the ocean, then covering your wound in plastic wrap and sealing the ends with waterproof tape could do the job.
Just make sure to thoroughly rinse and clean the area once you leave the ocean.
How Do You Cover a Cut While Surfing?
Covering a cut is done much the same as you would cover your stitches, the only difference is that your cut is open, and therefore needs to be cleaned and dressed first.
Before applying any ointment, make sure you have cleaned the area with fresh water to remove any dirt.
Dry the area and apply a small amount of anti-bacterial lotion, cover the wound in gauze or something similar, and wrap it in a waterproof bandage, plaster, or plastic wrap if needed.
Keep in mind that water may still leak through, which is why you should re-clean your wound when you are done surfing.
To a surfer, surfing is one of the most addictive activities around, so much so that even hurricanes, sharks, and flesh-eating bacteria will keep them away.
If you find yourself feeling like this, you probably jump into the ocean every chance you get, however, you need to remain cautious about new stitches, tattoos, and open wounds.
If you have stitches, it’s best to avoid the ocean for a few days to allow new skin to grow over and seal the wound from bacteria.
Doing this might be difficult, but it’s certainly better than having a leg removed thanks to flesh-eating bacteria in the ocean.