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Surfing with caution
near tragedy leads to mother's crusade
Bill Becher, Special to the Daily News
-- It wasn't the sort of day when a 13-year-old girl would
worry about dying. It was a warm and sunny January morning
at the beach, the kind of weather that causes people from
Minnesota to move to Southern California.
Hood was riding the small waves at Surfers Point, combining
fun with a school science project to study how the contours
of the ocean floor affect wave shape and size. She doesn't
remember much after she was struck in the head by another
surfers saw Hood floating face down in the water, unconscious.
They brought her to shore on a surfboard where a passing nurse
made sure she was breathing. She was taken to the emergency
arrived at the emergency room after receiving frantic phone
messages on my cell phone from her dad," said her mother,
Maggie Hood. "I found my daughter lying unconscious on
was wearing a neck brace, was hooked up to several IVs and
was being treated with an air bag that pumped warm air to
raise her body temperature, which had dropped to 90 degrees.
didn't know if she would ever walk or talk again," Maggie
had a concussion, but has since recovered after months of
dizzy spells and bouts of vomiting.
she resumed surfing, her mother made her wear a helmet at
first, but she didn't stop there.
petite, intense woman, Maggie Hood decided she would use her
daughter's near-tragedy to fuel a movement to make surfing
safer. Maggie Hood founded the Surf Safety Alliance to educate
new surfers and encourage experienced surfers to be more sharing
on the water. With help from local contributors Hood has printed
more than 5,000 pamphlets to help teach surf etiquette.
etiquette isn't Emily Post stuff -- it's the mostly unwritten
rules of the road on the waves that help keep things orderly
Hood also worried that new surfers jump into the water without
enough knowledge of the sport's dangers.
one would rent skis or a snowboard and start off on the top
of the mountain on a black diamond expert run," she said.
"But they do that on surfboards."
pamphlet rates the difficulty of a dozen Ventura coast surf
spots from beginner breaks to expert areas with strong rip
tides where waves can reach 12 feet. Hood also is trying to
get experienced surfers to be more sharing and accepting of
surfing for 20 or 30 years people forget what it's like to
be out there as a beginner on their first wave, falling off
and getting pounded," Maggie Hood said.
than look at beginners as intruders to abuse and threaten,
she hopes to encourage more of an "Aloha Spirit"
of generosity and sharing in surfing.
is distributing her pamphlet to Ventura County schools and
surf shops and has arranged for public service announcements
on local radio. She hopes to encourage other communities to
start Surf Safety Alliance chapters. Hood also is supporting
efforts to erect signs displaying surf etiquette rules at
several surf spots.
information to beginners is one thing, but changing behavior
is another. Some surfers are skeptical about calming a sport
that's been marred by violent acts of "localism"
and aggressive, testosterone amped "surf rage" as
an ever-increasing number of surfers seek out the same waves.
like dealing with traffic on the 405 on a Friday night at
five o'clock," said Matt Meyerson, a co-founder of the
Groundswell Society, a group that is trying to promote more
harmony on the waves.
get frustrated and angry. Everyone wants their wave but they
don't want to share. It is a very difficult task because you've
got to change people's psyche."
Ellis, a former professional surfer and two-time national
champion, is now a surf coach who thinks the Surf Safety Alliance
is an idea whose time has come.
put on paper the surf etiquette that's known by advanced surfers,"
Ellis said. "Through her efforts it's getting out to
the beginning and intermediate surfers."
Hood is back in the water with her board practicing for surf
competitions. She's happy about her mom's new activism.
"It's really cool what she's doing," Marissa said.
"She's making it safer and making sure there's a good
vibe in the water."
No surfer has the right of way in a collision situation. Never
endanger other surfers in the water. Never let go of the board,
it becomes a hazard to everyone else. When paddling out go
around the break, not through it. Stay clear of other surfers
on the wave. The surfer closest to the breaking wave owns
it. Two surfers can share the same wave if they go in opposite
directions from the peak. Communicate your direction. Never
snake, don't cut in front of another surfer and try to take
their wave. Don't try to ride the big waves until you're ready.
Take your place in the lineup according to your experience
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