Surfing in thunderstorms

Northern_Shores

Michael Peterson status
Mar 30, 2009
2,367
633
113
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If you count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, and then divide by 5, you'll get the distance in miles to the lightning: 5 seconds = 1 mile, 15 seconds = 3 miles, 0 seconds = very close. Keep in mind that you should be in a safe place while counting.
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Why is 5 seconds 1 mile and 15 seconds 3 miles? Why would there be any connection between these numbers?
 

Kento

Duke status
Jan 11, 2002
58,357
6,968
113
The Bar
At least make sure you have a few seconds until the thunder rolls. If its going *Crack BOOM* I'd get the heck out of the water.
Ah yes. A friend and I played this at County Valley. Counting on the 3 second differential as storm was approaching from land with offshore winds, rain, and actually some really damn good waves right in the middle of the beach. This worked just great until, out of the blue, a bolt of lightning hit a few hundreds outside of us. That was very disconcerting, going from 4 seconds to -0.2 seconds with no warning. Not part of the plan. I don't even remember how I got in, just that I did and it was as quick as possible. Running across the beach, another bolt hit. Didn't hit me but it was close enough that everything went white. Threw the board in the board in the car and got in with wetsuit still on in about 0.8 seconds to surf somewhere out of the way of that cell. But yeah, that was pretty sketchy.
 

Mr Doof

Duke status
Jan 23, 2002
20,101
1,760
113
San Francisco, CA
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If you count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, and then divide by 5, you'll get the distance in miles to the lightning: 5 seconds = 1 mile, 15 seconds = 3 miles, 0 seconds = very close. Keep in mind that you should be in a safe place while counting.
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Why is 5 seconds 1 mile and 15 seconds 3 miles? Why would there be any connection between these numbers?

A. What is the speed of sound in air?
 
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kelly7873

Nep status
Jan 20, 2002
633
106
43
Honolulu
You can only hear thunder that is within about 10 miles. One bolt of lightning can easily be 10 miles away from the last one. If you can hear thunder you are already in the danger zone.
 
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000

Duke status
Feb 20, 2003
22,581
1,341
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lifeguards kicked us out once when there was lightning
it can for sure f u up
one it hit the water maybe a mile away whil i was sittin on my board
i felt something but it may have all ben in my head
 

kelly7873

Nep status
Jan 20, 2002
633
106
43
Honolulu
Lightning has killed surfers but it's rare. Most of the Earth's surface is water but 90% of lightning that hits the surface hits land. Compared to other places there's not a lot of thunderstorms in Hawaii and I've only been caught out in the water in a thunderstorm twice. The first was many years ago at Sunset. As the storm got closer the crowd got thinner and I decided to stay out but as the storm got on top of us there were still ten guys out I chickened and went in. I did a little research and decided that it wasn't as dangerous as most websites say. Salt water is a fairly good conductor so there won't be much voltage drop from one side of your body to the other, like a bird on a wire. Of course a direct hit and you're toast but my guess was a strike even 50 feet away and you would be safe. My theory was test a couple of years ago when I was surfing (bodyboarding) an offshore island when a storm moved in. It's a 40 minute paddle back so that wasn't an option. I could go sit on the island but I knew that was far more dangerous so I just kept surfing.
 
Feb 19, 2017
8
3
3
Texas
Surfed and swam in dozens of lightning storms. On two occasions the pier I was surfing got hit. Insanely loud but no ill effects besides ringing ears. One of those times a fisherman on the pier was struck but me 20 yards away in the water was perfectly fine. Naturally I've started to believe surfing near piers is pretty safe. Disclaimer, not my fault if my theory fails for you... but if it doesn't you'll probably get the lineup to yourself.
 

Sharkbiscuit

Tom Curren status
Aug 6, 2003
12,903
3,977
113
Jacksonville Beach
One day at Sebastian a fisherman died from a lightning strike. Didn't know until after the fact. Surf was fun and it stayed between busy and packed the whole time.

The Friday evening of Hurricane Bill, at Mayport the walls started to show with some nice (for Florida) grunt and long, tapered lines. Nasty summer thunderstorm that afternoon. Pretty scary but pretty crowded.

One time we had a long mid-winter flat spell with a shitload of cold weather - cold offshores blowing it perma-flat and dropping temps. The water got down to high 40s. A weak frontal passage set up something to ride - some small dogshit slop.

I put all my booties hood gloves sh!t on, paddled out, surfed for like 20-30 minutes and heard the crackle-boom right the F on top of me. It sucked so I got out, but normally associating lightning with summer afternoons, I was fuuuuuuuuuuuukn steamed that it ruined what was, for North Florida standards, a grovel in straight Klondike water temps.
 

youcantbeserious

OTF status
Oct 29, 2020
177
450
63
Location location
When my oldest kid was about 9 we were surfing on a stormy day near our house on the east side. No thunder or lightning, no big deal. We saw a dark cloud coming in and heard the first thunderclap, and I told my kid let's catch one more and go in. Well that storm was moving fast, and being as we are on the windward side it was barreling right towards us. Within a minute, I saw a big crack of lightning and the thunderclap was massive, reverberating off the Ko'olau cliffs. My kid was ON THE BEACH within seconds, I've never seen anybody paddle so fast. And I had been telling him he needs to paddle harder for waves and he kept telling me he can't. When we got to the truck I told him he just blew up his paddle excuse, big time.
 

stringcheese

Billy Hamilton status
Jun 21, 2017
1,690
900
113
Did this once at Shell Beach. Never again.

Back in late 90s, mid winter and pouring buckets of rain. Friend and I wanted to get in the water somewhere as the swell was pumping but everywhere was gnarly victory at sea conditions, with crazy run off, messed up sand bars, crazy rips, etc. This spot in Shell was grinding 4-5' barrels...

It'll be a big day when that spot can't hold itself together, even when everything else is washed :) long as you don't mind the, eh, well whatever comes out of that tube...
 

hammies

Miki Dora status
Apr 8, 2006
5,327
1,534
113
Sailed up to Newport Beach one time, and just outside newport harbor a thunderstorm rolled in with lightning. Kept looking up at that big aluminum mast sticking up into the air. Was scared shitless.
 

potato-nator

Miki Dora status
Nov 10, 2015
4,348
445
83
Sailed up to Newport Beach one time, and just outside newport harbor a thunderstorm rolled in with lightning. Kept looking up at that big aluminum mast sticking up into the air. Was scared shitless.
can one protect their boat/mast from getting hit?