Surf Rash – Causes, Treatment, Prevention

If you’ve spent much time in the ocean you’ve probably experienced sand rubbing in places you don’t want it to. But when tiny sharp granules find their way between the cuffs of your wetsuit while surfing, paddling and duck diving, irritation can quickly turn into nasty abrasions that ruin your surf.

Even without sand, an ageing or poor-fitting wetsuit can start to rub at your skin and after an hour of surfing, you’re all ready to head to the beach just to stop the relentless scratching. With a whopping 40% of surfers reportedly suffering we want to share all the tips and tricks we’ve learned after years of surfing.

Surf rash is no joke, from bleeding armpits, to redraw necks we’ll look at causes, treatment and ongoing prevention of surf rash so you don’t have to make the mistakes we have.

What is surf rash?

Surf rash is any excessive rubbing leading to abrasion while you surf, bodyboard or any other wave riding activity. Surf rash can range in severity from sore red skin to deep bleeding cuts if left untreated.

Not strictly reserved for abrasion by sand, surf rash also happens when your wetsuit rubs and irritates your skin or the wax on your surfboard.

Even though surf rash can be painful and itchy it rarely lasts more than a few days. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about (as long as you don’t have any underlying health issues). But if it’s severe enough to cause blisters or open wounds, you should see a doctor immediately because these symptoms could indicate an infection or another underlying condition.

What causes it?

  • Peeling on sandy wetsuits
  • Old splitting neoprene
  • Cheap boardshorts
  • Poorly fitted wetsuits
  • Your skin not being used to the rigours of surfing
  • Excessive sand in your surfboard wax

Where can it happen on your body?

Unfortunately, you can be afflicted nearly anywhere depending on your specific issue. From paddling, walking to and from the beach and surfing you can get surfers rash in any of the following places.

  • Armpits
  • Neck
  • Back of your knees
  • Inside thigh
  • Nipples (often called surfers nipple)
  • Crotch
  • Ribs

Whether it’s your ribs rubbing against you’re surfboard or some boardshorts lining tearing into your inner thigh, nowhere’s safe from surfing rash, even your crotch if you’re particularly unlucky.

Never fear, we’ll talk you through all the ways you can treat your rash and get you back in the waves in no time.

How can you treat surf rash?

Over-the-counter rash treatments – Normal antiseptic cut and abrasion creams will help soothe and heal your surf rash, particularly if you’ve broken the skin.

A natural remedy – You can use blams created using natural ingredients to help heal sore chafed skin

Rest and recovery – Abrasion normally just needs a little bit of time to heal and you’ll be ready to surf again. If your pain doesn’t go away or your wounds don’t heal you should seek help from a medical professional.

How to prevent surf rash

  • Vaseline acts as a lubricant and can help stop rash while you surf and paddle, apply it to your neck, back of your legs and your armpits to stop rash from ever starting.
  • Coconut Oil acts as a natural lubricant and doesn’t contain any nasty petroleum jelly (even though it does cost more).
  • Rash vests can help prevent trash around your neck and armpits. Make sure you invest in a good quality rash vest, the cheap ones can often do more harm than good.
  • Change your surf wax regularly, if you’re surfing without a wetsuit or a t-shirt the sand in your wax can rub your skin, making for red, sore marks where your ribs are, especially if you’re slim.

Common questions about surf rash

Now you’re all set to go and catch some waves without having to worry about irritating chafing while you surf. To finish we decided to answer some common questions we’ve heard about surfing rash to help you guys out.

What’s the quickest way to get rid of surfing rash?

As soon as you feel rash starting get out of the water and find some from of lubricant or padding to prevent further rash. Lip balm can work as an emergency measure if you haven’t got any other options.

Does Aloe Vera help surfers’ rash?

Aloe Vera can help aid in the healing process so while Aloe Vera Oil may not help pre-surf it’s great for after. This Aloe Vera Gel is a life-saver if you’ve been out surfing all day and caught the sun.

How can you prevent chafing while you surf?

Either lube up with some Vaseline/natural alternative or get yourself a good rash vest that can act as a layer of protection between you and your westuit or surfboard.

How can I stop boardshort rash?

Apply a lubrication of your choice to your inner thighs, groin and the back of your knees. While you may feel a bit silly you’ll be thanking me when you’re not cutting your session short in pumping waves.