Travelling to far-flung corners of the world without adequate first-aid supplies is always inadvisable. However for a surfer, who will be spending a large amount of time in the water where some type of injury is almost inevitable, it is asking for trouble.
Getting together a comprehensive first-aid kit for surf travel will mean that once at your destination you don't have to try and source items that may be difficult to come by, if at all. Additionally, by being prepared you can prevent small problems turning into big ones.
Off-the-shelf First-Aid Kits
There are several companies who offer a range of travel first-aid kits both through shops and Internet purchasing and furthermore some of the surf manufacturers now supply surfer specific products to cover all eventualities. Some of these kits are a little on the expensive side but if your budget is not so tight they are convenient and well stocked.
Global Odyssi Surfers' First-Aid and Wellness Kit – marketed as 'specifically designed for surfers by surfers' this kit contains more than 30 items so you are ready for everything a surf trip might leave you faced with. Additionally it has a surf specific first-aid manual which covers reef cuts, bites and stings from the ocean, soft tissue injuries, head injuries, wounds, how to spot the onset of infection and much more.
Price – from US$64 to 78 plus shipping
Altec - Adventure Medical World Travel First-Aid Kit – this adventure company offer a large range of first-aid kit supplies aimed at travellers who will be participating in out of the ordinary or more extreme activities. Many supplies can also be bought separately.
Available from www.altec.com
Price – US$69.95 plus shipping
Putting Together Your Own Kit
If you don't have the space or the funds to buy one of the larger ready-made kits then you can easily put together your own. Here is a check list of what you might want to include:
Liquid bandage – sometimes called second skin or spray bandage/dressing this is an item I would never be without on my surf travels. It is especially good on small, clean wounds, making them waterproof and infection proof without the need for bulky dressings or plasters. Be warned though – it comes off quite quickly in the water and may need constant reapplications.
Waterproof/sports performance sun protection – oddly not considered by many to be part of a first-aid kit. Surfers spend long hours in the sun, being constantly cooled by wind and water and so are often oblivious to the pounding they are taking until it is too late. I am dark skinned and don't burn easily but I have still suffered from severe sun burn - even in temperate climates this can be a problem and in New Zealand and Australia where there are holes in the ozone layer the result can be catastrophic.
Duct tape – this comes up again and again in my blogs but that's because it is the ultimate in useful travelling items. It can be used over the top of dressings to make them waterproof or used on its own with a piece of gauze if you have run out of other dressings. It can pad blisters, work as strong support for sprains and has myriad other uses.
Tien ta yao gin liniment – available from several Internet companies including www.superiormartialarts.com, this completely natural herb blend has been a godsend for surfers for many years particularly for treating reef cuts/fin cuts and helping keep infection at bay. It is also a painkiller, wound healing accelerator and soft tissue relaxant.
Diarrhoea tablets – nothing ruins your surf session quite like an upset stomach so be prepared.
Insect repellant – not just useful for minimising the risk of malaria and other parasite borne diseases but keeping bites to a minimum will reduce infection risks in the tropics which can result from scratching irritated bites.
Iodine solution – great for disinfecting wounds. Be sure to buy a tincture which is intended for external use.
Anti bacterial wipes – do much the same thing as iodine. Problems from infections, often beginning as the most innocuous or tiniest of wounds, are some of the most common problems surfers will encounter.
Tweezers – for removing coral debris, urchin spines etc
Dressings and gauze – take a few different sizes. Larger dressings can always be cut to size.
Bandages – as for dressings
If all else fails find an American surfer – they always have the most wonderful first-aid supplies.