Can You Surf In Fog?

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Surfers are often fanatics who hate to turn down the opportunity to surf. Sometimes the weather does not play along, and unexpected weather conditions can occur. Staying safe should be a priority for anybody using the ocean for recreation. Fog is known for rolling in suddenly, and surfers must decide if it is safe to surf in fog.

Surfing in fog is not a wise idea. Fog creates numerous problems which can make the ocean hazardous for surfers. Limited visibility can result in difficulties negotiating the waves and expose the surfer to danger from obstacles in the water. Fog disorientates surfers increasing the hazards.

Surfers often have the attitude that they should never say no to the waves, but there are times when careful thought is needed before entering the surf. You will definitely contend with fog when surfing in San Francisco but fog is a factor for every surfer sooner or later.

Is It Possible To Surf In Fog?

Many surfers will tell you that they have surfed in fog and have caught some incredible waves. Surfers sometimes may be caught unawares when they are already out in the surf and a fog rolls in. In this case, the surfer has no choice but to navigate the fog. The best option is to try and get to shore while there is some visibility.

In recent years surfing associations have carried out campaigns to make surfers more aware of safety issues. Their point of view is that surfing is a dangerous sport and risk management is essential. It is possible to surf in fog, but the more important question is whether it is wise to surf in fog.

Is Surfing In Fog Dangerous?

Surfing in fog is much like surfing at night. The danger exists in the lack of visibility. This means that thick fog will obscure visibility more than a light fog. Fog can become denser rapidly, so it is better to treat all fog the same.

Surfing Is A Visual Sport

Surfers need to watch where the swell starts and the waves break. Estimating the speed of the waves is critical in knowing when to paddle and how fast to paddle to catch the wave.

Surfers rely on their vision to know the correct waves to catch. Catching the wrong waves could easily lead to injuries. Limited visibility from fog makes surfing extremely dangerous. The result would be that a surfer could be caught off guard by big waves breaking on them.

The immense power of a wall of water breaking on you can break bones and slam a surfer against the ocean floor, causing head injuries and concussion. Big waves can hold surfers under the water, causing them to drown.

Surfing in fog would make surfers vulnerable to collisions with obstacles in the ocean such as rocks, piers, large floating obstacles such as logs, and even other surfers. Hitting something hard and unforgiving in the sea can lead to traumatic injuries with fatal results.

The inability to read the ocean due to the thick fog may result in surfers getting caught in rip currents that dash them against piers and rocks. It is challenging to identify rip currents in limited visibility, and the surfer may be unexpectedly be carried further out to sea.

Entry and exit into the ocean will be made more complicated by fog. It will be difficult to assess where the hazards are

Lack of visibility will make it difficult for surf partners or people on the shore to keep the surfer in sight. If the surfer experiences difficulties, the chances are that no one will see, and no rescue can be mounted.

Fog Disorientates Surfers

Fog can be so thick that it is difficult to see a few feet in front. It also distorts sound so that identifying the origin of the sound is difficult.

With two crucial senses wiped out by fog, becoming disorientated in fog is almost a certainty. Once disorientated, surfers easily become confused and head in the wrong direction.

This can be deadly as surfers may crash into rocks or other obstacles. Experienced seamen have even noted that it may be difficult to tell where land is in heavy fog conditions.

Hypothermia Is A Risk For Surfers In Fog

Fog over the sea most often forms when warm, moist winds blow over a cold ocean. Dew point is reached, with the sudden drop in temperature and the water condenses around salt particles causing advection or sea fog.

Surfers may be in the water for much longer than anticipated in fog due to its disorientating effect. If the water is cold, this may result in the surfer dealing with hypothermia, increasing survival risks.

What Conditions Cause Fog?

Sea fog and land fog behave in quite different ways. Sea fog can form at any time of day and is quite common over the ocean. Many surfers believe that sea fog cannot arise in strong winds, but this is untrue. The winds bring warm, water-laden air, which condenses over the cold ocean and causes fog. 

Some areas are renowned for sea fog, and it is always wise to be cautious and aware when surfing at these locations. Keeping abreast of local weather conditions can help predict when fog may occur. 

What Do The Experts Say about Surfing In Fog?

Cliff Skudin, Kealii Mamala, Andrew Cotton, and Garret McNamara, all top international big wave surfers, met up at Nazare in Portugal to catch the huge swells there.

The surf was huge and perfect for surfing that morning, so they took their boards and headed out on the skis. Just as they got into position, a thick fog rolled in.

They waited several hours for the fog to lift but chose not to surf in the fog because of the risk factors. When professionals of this caliber choose not to surf, it is wise to pay attention.

Fred Pompermayer is a surfer but is most famous for his surfing photography. He has been in many difficult situations when navigating the surf to photograph surfers. He cites fog as an extremely dangerous condition to be caught in.

He avoids fog whenever possible but has been caught in fog twice. Even though Fred is experienced in the ways of the ocean, he explains that they became utterly disorientated. They could not tell the direction of the shore or the sea.  


Surfing is a sport that relies heavily on the surfer’s ability to see and judge distances and speed. If visibility is limited, it is better to avoid the surf. Fog can appear suddenly, and surfers should always be aware of weather conditions while surfing. It is better to avoid surfing in fog and live to surf another day.