What Is A Dry Reef In Surfing?

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Dry reef surfing is when you surf a reef at low tide. The wave breaks in shallow water, exposing the reef and creating a serious risk of injury.

It’s a challenge even for the most experienced surfer. In this guide, we’ll show you what dry reef surfing is all about while discussing the pros and cons of this high-risk activity.

What is A Dry Reef in Surfing?

You can surf a dry reef on a longboard, shortboard, bodyboard, and other types of board. It simply references the act of surfing on a wave that breaks over an exposed reef at low tide.

For it to be considered a dry reef, part of the reef must be visible, leaving rocks and coral exposed.

Dry Reef Breaks vs Beach Breaks and Point Breaks

Dry reef breaks differ from beach breaks and point breaks in that the wave breaks away from the coast, sometimes over a mile away.

The shallow water increases the risk and makes dry reef surfing very challenging. You need to have a lot of skill, knowledge, and experience to make this work, not to mention nerve.

Beach breaks and point breaks can be tough, but the risk of injury isn’t as great and the learning curve isn’t as steep.

What Are the Benefits of Dry Reef Surfing?

Although dry reef surfing is challenging, it offers some clear benefits that you don’t get with other surf breaks.

There Are No Crowds

Popular surf spots can be very busy during peak times. It’s chaos out there and that’s off-putting whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned pro. With dry reef breaks, you don’t need to worry.

The increased risk of injury means these breaks are usually empty and you could have the spot to yourself.

It Will Boost Your Confidence

Nothing will boost your confidence like surfing a dry reef break.

You’ve faced sharp reefs and steep waves and you’ve come away unharmed—imagine how good that makes you feel!

It’ll Give You Some Bragging Rights

Dry reef breaks might not offer the best surf or the biggest waves, but they are challenging and you’ll gain plenty of props from fellow surfers if you handle them.

The surfing community loves a good reef break, as well as any surfer skilled enough to ride one.

You Can Test Your Technical Ability

Along with big wave surfing, dry reef breaks are some of the most technically challenging rides. There are obstacles to avoid and you need to pop up very quickly. You also run the risk of coming to serious harm if you don’t know what you’re doing or suffer from a lapse in judgment.

If you want something that will improve your technical abilities as a surfer, a dry reef break could be ideal.

You Can Surf at Low Tide

Most beach breaks and point breaks can’t be surfed at low tide, but a reef break can.

What are the Issues with Dry Reef Surfing?

Dry reef surfing is not for everyone. There are some clear and obvious downsides and these should be closely considered before you try this activity for yourself.

They are Very Dangerous

The risk of injury is high on these surf breaks. Wiping out could send you careering into a coral or rock reef, leaving you with cuts, bruises, and potentially putting your life in danger.

Short Rides

Reef breaks aren’t the longest rides and usually run for only a few feet. This is one of the reasons they are so challenging.

If you’re looking for a long and cruising ride over the perfect wave, you’re looking in the wrong place.

Not Suitable For Beginners

If you’re a beginner surfer, stay clear of dry reef breaks. They require a lot of technical ability and aren’t very forgiving of surfers who make mistakes. There are plenty of surf breaks out there that are suitable for novices—dry reefs are definitely not among them.

You Could Damage Your Surfboard

It’s not just your health that you need to worry about. Hitting a rock or coral reef could also damage your surfboard, making for a very expensive wipeout.

Should I Surf a Dry Reef as a Beginner?

Although it’s important to test yourself as a beginner, reef breaks are not the place to do it. Look for a beach break or point break, and stay clear of those reefs.

Beginners wipe out more frequently and if you’re constantly wiping out above a rock or coral reef, you’ll risk damaging yourself and your board.

What Does Glassy Mean In Surfing?

The term “glassy” refers to the surface of the water on days with minimal wind. The water is smooth and undisturbed, so it looks like the glassed surface of a mirror.

Top Tips For Dry Reef Surfing

If you’re preparing for your first steps on a dry reef, keep these tips in mind. They won’t guarantee your safety, but they will increase your chances of having a safe and enjoyable ride:

Don’t Surf Straight

Don’t surf straight on a dry reef as it could send you directly into the rocks.

After you drop-in, turn, and stay on the water.

Look Out For Exposed Sections

Pay attention to the surface of the water and watch out for exposed rocks and coral. If the water is rippling, it could indicate that something’s directly underneath.

Once you spot these areas, stay clear of them.

Don’t Surf Alone

Many surfer deaths occur because surfers catch waves by themselves and there’s no one there to help them when they get in trouble.

Always take a friend with you. They can watch over you and help you if you get into a spot of trouble.

Remember that Confidence is Key

Believing that you can do something is half the battle. When taking off, you need to fully commit yourself to the wave and don’t hesitate. As soon as you start to doubt yourself and hesitate, you’ll head down a slippery slope that ends with a painful wipeout.