Interview with Simon Morris of Surfing Medicine International - Nalu Beads Blog

Posted & filed under Featured, Lifestyle.

Surfing Medicine aims to share knowledge, educating coastal and surfing communities about healthy living, lifesaving and injury prevention. The World Conference 2018 was held in surfing hub of Newquay, Cornwall from Monday the 24th to 28th September. A collaboration of highly regarded athletes, environmental campaigners and people with strong scientific backgrounds came together to create a World Conference targeting issues surrounding keeping surfers healthy and safe and looking into acute and chronic surfing injuries.

We caught up with Simon Morris to discover the visions and work of Surfing Medicine International and to find out the successes of their latest World Conference. The topics considered in the conference included education, the Olympics and surfers in their extreme environments. The importance of educating the next generation of surfers, surf coaches and lifeguards was a highlight of the conference, along side the topics of professional athletes and medical care for surf events such as in the Olympics. Speakers included Surfers Against Sewage founder Hugo Tagholm who discussed the impact of surfers as ambassadors for clean oceans and surfer Emily Currie, raising information on how to prepare for the Olympics. If you feel you want to contribute to Surfing Medicine International you can donate or contact them regarding future conferences. If you have or have had a surfing injury you can register this information anonymously on their website. This information will be used to check out the prevalence of surfing injuries and any correlations to keep surfers safe in the future.

This is Surfing Medicine from Surfing Medicine International on Vimeo.

The World Conference Surfing Medicine was held in Newquay recently. How did it go and what were the hot topics at the conference?

The conference was a huge success! We had over 100 attendees across the five days from around the globe. Newquay was be the perfect location: with plenty of surf spots to choose from and of course, Fistral Beach right in front of the conference location: the Headland Hotel! The local surf community was welcoming and a lot of local healthcare professionals came to share their knowledge with us.

This year we had three core themes for the conference:

  • The Surfer & Their Extreme Environment
  • The Wave to the Tokyo Olympics 2020
  • Professionalizing Safety in Surfers

The speakers included: Professor Mike Tipton (world expert in extreme medicine and hypothermia), Dr Anne Leonard (leader of the ‘Beach Bums’ study), Hugo Tagholm (founder of Surfers Against Sewage), Emily Currie (British Longboarding Olympic hopeful), Dr Takeshi Kojima (spinal surgeon and doctor to Japanese surfing team), Nick Houndsfield (behind The Wave Bristol) and many more who gave up to date research on drowning, chronic surf injuries and antibiotic resistance in surfers.

We also had representation from some amazing surfing organisations from Newquay and beyond: Surfing England, The Wave Project, Surfers Against Sewage, Northcore, Dry Robe and of course Nalu Beads!

As you might guess – We had an amazing time and we’re already working on next year’s event which will be held at Bells Beach in Australia, from 10-13 April 2019.


Tell us about the idea behind Surfing Medicine International (SMI) and how did Surfing Medicine international start out?

Surfing Medicine International (SMI) was founded in 2011 as a non-profit, volunteer-based organisation in order to “Keep the Surfer Healthy and Safe” by connecting surfers, health professionals, lifeguards, sport and environmental scientists, surf coaches and athletes.

Since 2011, the SMI has run five conferences in Ireland, Portugal and France. It has also developed it’s own, unique and accredited qualification: the Advanced Surf Life-Support course (ASLS), which takes place annually in Portugal. The SMI has also developed a number of tools to help achieve its aim, such as the Surf First Aid app.

Ultimately, we want to ensure that there are defined, evidence-based standards within the specialty and the sport.


Surfing Medicine Conference

(Surfing Medicine International – World Conference 2018 held at Newquay, Cornwall supported by Nalu amongst others.)

What are the issues and challenges that effect the health of the environment and surfers?

Surfing is becoming increasingly popular, with current estimates numbering 37 million surfers worldwide. Surfers may encounter several different types of health issues whilst riding both their local breaks and abroad: trauma to the head or extremities, drowning and hypothermia, UV damage to the skin and eyes, exostosis (surfer’s ear) from prolonged cold-water exposure, tropical infectious disease from travelling, or stings and bites from marine species to name but a few. We have also seen the recent rise in awareness regarding the impact of plastic waste on our oceans.

By sharing knowledge, expertise and clinical experience from our membership, representing all medical specialties and surf associated professionals, we aim to provide the surfer with information on how to stay healthy and safe in the water.

Was there a specific topic that interested you personally and as there a specific speaker that was particularly inspiring and/or enjoyable to listen to?

As an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor I was particularly excited about the sessions about ear problems affecting surfers. Particularly in the UK, where we surf in cold water year-round which we know is worse for surfers’ ears.

We were fortunate to have world expert on exostosis (surfer’s ear) Dr Douglas Hetzler joins us at the conference and share his experience in operating on this condition in California, USA. We also had Dr Markus Emerich, an ENT surgeon from Europe, who took a year out to research the condition around the world – (you can find out more about his research at

It was also inspiring to hear from Hugo Tagholm from Surfers Against Sewage and Joe Taylor from The Wave Project. Both of whom run amazing work out of Cornwall and inspired many of us about the role surfers have both for the health of our patients and our oceans.


Surfing MedicineWhat are the future aims of Surfing Medicine International and what will donations be going towards?

As we’ve mentioned above, SMI is not-for-profit and the whole organisation is run by volunteers who also work as full-time healthcare-professionals – which can be quite the commitment at times!

As well as our annual conference, we run a number of other courses, most notably the Basic Surf Life Support (BSLS) and Advanced Surf Life Support (ASLS) courses. These run to allow surfers and healthcare professionals to learn about evidence-based methods to practice rescue and help other surfers when they get into trouble.

We have also produced a number of free apps to help surfers. The Surf First Aid app is our most popular – which gives surfers easy to understand emergency advice regarding common surfing injuries. And we’ve also developed the ‘Surf Years’ app to allow surfers to predict their risk of exostosis based on their water exposure.

Ultimately, we want every surfer to know about the problems that affect them and how they can understand, recognise and manage these conditions. Surfing can be a very dangerous sport, and we feel it our responsibility to inform every surfer about the risks they take – without taking any enjoyment from the best sport ever (we may be bias).

Obviously we all have our eyes on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where surfing will be an official sport for the first time, and we want SMI to be the ‘go to’ for medical advice on the international stage.



There are people that can get involved using their skills and knowledge to make a positive difference, what sort of people are you looking out for to contribute to SMI or to contribute to future conferences?

We welcome any surfer who wants to make a difference. Whether this just be to look after friends in the line-up or those who want to contribute to the established evidence-base for the practice of water-based rescue and resuscitation.

The conference, lectures and workshops are designed for every surfer. Every year we have a wide variety of attendees: professional to amateur surfers, surf coaches, lifeguards, doctors, nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists, osteopaths, students, environmental scientists, industry stakeholders… Every surfer gets affected by the same problems and we believe that all surfers have a duty to look after one another in the line-up.

Nalu Bracelet

(Mentawais Nalu bead worn at the World Conference Suring Medicine in Newquay.

“Keeping the surfer healthy and safe” is a key objective for SMI. What key things can we do to ensure this?

Ultimately, we feel that this is about education, which is why we want to spread our message far and wide! Every surf we increase our chances of gaining an injury, eye/skin/ear problems or drowning – any if you ask many surfers they don’t know about these risks or how they can treat them if they do occur. And we don’t want surfers sitting out of the water for avoidable injuries!

By sharing knowledge, expertise and clinical experience from our membership, representing all medical specialties and surf associated professionals, we aim to provide the surfer with information on how to stay healthy and safe in the water.



Goodies form Sponsors

(World Conference Surfing Medicine goodie bag including Surfgirl magazine,Swox zinc sunscreen and Nalu jewellery.)

To discover more about Surfing Medicine International, head over to their website here.

Catch up with SMI on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Vimeo

If you’d like to donate to Surfing Medicine International, head over to their donating page here.

 Register a surfing injury you have had or have here.

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