I expect it is by no means complete, but if you are involved in a river surfing accident or near miss, please add it to this River Surfing Accident Database. American Whitewater has been running a similar service for whitewater kayaking and rafting for years, and the data that these surveys generate can be invaluable for avoiding similar accidents in the future. Since river surfing is a form of whitewater recreation, you may be interested in the whitewater database, which can be found here.
A quick read-through of the River Surfing database drives home the point I made in this post: River Surfing Dangers Are Different. The unrelenting force of moving water near most river waves, combined with either a foot or leash entrapment, is what most commonly kills river surfers. Be safe out there, and if you’re wearing a leash, make sure it is easily released, even if your feet are trapped upstream. Something like this is a good idea.
And a rope doesn’t need to be attached to you to be dangerous. Ropes and moving water are a dangerous combination, because the rope can easily become entangled around a person. Whitewater kayakers often carry river knives for this very reason. And tow ropes and other loose ropes in moving water have killed numerous whitewater users, both in boats and on boards.
It’s up to us as a community to educate each other about these dangers. I had a good conversation a couple of months ago with a surfer whose friend was on the other side of the river wearing an ankle leash:
Me: Has anybody tried to talk your buddy out of wearing an ankle leash?
Friend: No, why?
Me: You know how ocean waves come in sets, so you have force pushing against you, but then you get a break, and then force, and then a break?
Friend: Yeah, oh I get it.
Me: Right, with a river you never get that break; it’s just constant force. So if your leash gets caught upstream and your body is downstream, you never get a chance to reach it and you drown.
Friend: Yeah makes sense. Hey buddy! Take off the leash!
It was non-confrontational, and it got the point across. Everyone is certainly free to make their own safety decisions, but they should be informed decisions. And it’s up to us as a community to at least pass the information along.