What Is Teak Surfing? - Green Iguana Surf Camp

What Is Teak Surfing?

Surfing has been a fundamental water sport and fun pastime for decades, from professional leagues to a weekend hobby, there are thousands of people who participate in the sport across America. From the origins of surfing came something a bit more dangerous and exciting – Teak surfing.


Though Teak Surfing is still done today, it is not recognized as an actual sport and is seriously discouraged in all states, and even illegal in some! So, in this article we will go through what Teak Surfing is and why it is such a controversial pastime.

Teak Surfing & Body Surfing

Teak surfing, also known as platform dragging, is a water sport where swimmers hold onto the swim platform of a powerboat and get towed or dragged through the water.

Body surfing is a very similar activity but the surfer lets go of the platform and rides the wake that the boat creates behind. There are a multitude of tricks that surfers can do in the wake of the stern – letting go when it is near them and body surfing when it is far away.

Teak surfing has been around for decades and is considered a very dangerous pastime, with many states banning the sport altogether.

The Dangers Of Teak Surfing

Though in many circles teak surfing is considered an adrenaline rush and a fairly common place watersport, in others, it is seen as a risky and highly dangerous one.

The most obvious danger is the fact that the swimmer holds onto a platform very near a power boat’s propeller, which will be turning at just over 200rpm. 

Even disregarding the dangers of being near a fast moving propeller, the real danger here is Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The fact is that a moving boat causes suction behind it, which pulls in exhaust fumes behind it and traps them there. This means that a person riding behind, near the suction, would get a full blast of CO. 

Carbon Monoxide itself is both tasteless and odourless, meaning it is hard to detect by smell alone and this is what makes it so deadly. Around 430 Americans die from CO poisoning every year.

The major symptoms of CO poisoning are; headaches, dizziness, nausea, seizures and sleepiness, which inevitably lead to unconsciousness and death if the victim is not removed from its source to fresh air.

The symptoms can often be mistaken for seasickness or flu. Many victims who survive have permanent brain damage. Anyone in the water without a PFD who is rendered unconscious will drown immediately.

CO poisoning is not restricted to swimmers behind a boat. It can happen whenever air currents pull the exhaust back into the cockpit or cabin of the boat or below decks when there is a faulty exhaust system.

This is why many people feel that teak surfing is reckless and, in fact, Teak surfing is now illegal in all units of the National Park System and several states, including California, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste. Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill if you’re exposed to high levels.

After carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters your bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body) to form carboxyhemoglobin.

When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die. Unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature.

What Is Teak Surfing?

The symptoms can gradually get worse with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Your symptoms may be less severe when you’re away from the source of the carbon monoxide.

The Laws Around Teak Surfing

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the “Anthony Farr and Stacey Beckett Boating Safety Act” into law Sept. 17.2000, making it illegal to operate a boat when someone is teak surfing, or for a person to be on or near the swim platform or swim ladder while the engine is running. 

Farr was an 11-year-old who died last year of carbon monoxide poisoning while teak surfing, and Beckett, who was 15, met a similar and horrible fate in 2000.

Another provision requires any new or used boat sold in California to have two carbon monoxide warning stickers affixed, one inside the boat and one on the transom, to make it very obvious of the dangers and hopefully deter people from teak surfing.

The law also calls on boatbuilders to continue to invest in research and development to find ways to minimize carbon monoxide emissions.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Did Teak Surfing Start?

Teak surfing is a trend that seems to have started in the late 60s, when watersports, like surfing, really started to become popular in the USA.

This makes sense as teak surfing is often thought of as a fad or a reaction to traditional surfing, meant for adrenaline junkies as the risks with teak surfing are extremely high. 

Is Teak Surfing Band In All States?

The short answer is no. Teak surfing, despite being warned against by most water authorities, is not banned in all states across the USA. It is, however, banned in Nevada, California, Washington and Pennsylvania. 

What Is Drag Surfing?

Drag surfing is essentially another name for teak surfing, it is holding onto any portion of the exterior of the transom of a vessel (including the swim platform, swim deck, swim step, or swim ladder) for any amount of time while a motorized vessel is underway at any speed or the engine is idling.

What Type Of Surfboard Is Used For Teak Surfing?

There is generally no specific type of board needed to teak surf, though most people use a standard longboard.

For body surfing, no board is used at all as people simply lie on the water and get dragged by the waves created by the wake of the boat they’re attached to.

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