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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Surfing's hidden dangers
A surfer rides the waves
Thousands flock to Cornwall's beaches for the surf
North Cornwall, where two surfers drowned in a tragic accident, boasts some of Europe's finest surfing beaches with Newquay the surfing capital.

The surf beach culture with its own fashion, music and language brings thousands of visitors each year and is a vital part of the local economy.

There are even proposals for a "surf reef" off one of the main Newquay beaches to create good consistent surfing conditions all the year round.

We are world-renowned for our surfing

Sylvia Hodgson, Newquay and the Cornish Riviera
Yet, as shown by the deaths of a father and son while bodyboarding, the sport is high-risk.

Four million people visit Cornwall every year and research has shown that a quarter will take part in some sort of watersport.

Newquay's tourism office describes the town as a family resort which also attracts large numbers of young people who flock to the area for the surfing.

Warning sign
Safety advice on the beach where the men died
"We are world-renowned for our surfing," said Sylvia Hodgson, assistant marketing and promotions manager for Newquay and the Cornish Riviera.

"It is important to the local economy as we have the serious surfers and the holidaymakers who like to try things like bodyboarding."

The recent Rip Curl championships attracted competitors from around the world and Europe's number one surfer Russell Winter is from Newquay.

The town has many surf and board shops and there is a spin-off social scene in sports bars and pubs frequented by surf "dudes".

Channels of water

Research is going on into whether a "surf reef" can be built off one of Newquay's main surfing beaches.

"There is a bid in for European funding," said Teresa Timms, Cornwall Tourism spokeswoman.

The two men who died on Thursday were caught in a rip tide at Holywell Bay.

Holywell Bay
The men were swept away by a rip tide
These are powerful channels of water moving back out to sea after being pushed towards the shore by waves.

Because they lurk in seemingly calm waters, tired or inexperienced swimmers or surfers can easily be swept away.

They are characterised by darker and foamier water, sometimes with floating debris.

The rip area is usually calm with a rippled surface and smaller waves.

Sand bars

The currents often look like small rivers flowing away from shore.

Rip currents exist in areas where the strength of the waves is weakened by objects such as sand bars, piers and even large groups of bathers.

The UK Surf Lifesavers Association says rip tides are the biggest cause of rescues.

Rip currents occur on many Cornish beaches although coastguards say the number of incidents has been down this year.

'Swim parallel'

The deaths of the two bodyboarders were the first drowning fatalities in Newquay this summer.

Lifeguards say swimmers caught in a rip tide should stay calm and not swim directly against it.

Strong swimmers should swim parallel to the shore until they pass the current and only then swim toward the beach.

Weak or inexperienced swimmers should ride it out and then swim parallel to the shore for 30 to 40 metres to where the waves are breaking before turning to swim straight to the beach.

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