Everyone wipes out. There's as many ways to wipe as there are to surf. Variety is the spice of life, and beatings come in all flavours. You can launch yourself over the falls and get drilled by the lip, land upside down and get a bit of ocean shot through your sinuses or do the full washing machine rinse and spin cycle. Like it or not, if you surf, you will wipeout. The degree of spectacular-ness is up to you. Wanna grab your sack? Now's a good time. Or throw a victory salute to the photag? Go ahead.
Most of the time they happen too suddenly to make a claim whilst going down. Despite the speed at which you go from surfer to wiper, you still have to do a coupla quick things in that instant. Makes all the difference between a happy tumble and a panicky pummeling.
Your board goes from best friend to worst enemy the minute the two of you part ways. Try get away from it. Otherwise it has a nasty habit of pinging itself into your head. Which hurts. As you start to fall - try give it a kick away from you. Voetsak!
Fall backwards and push ya board forwards is the way to go. Never go in head-first if you can help it, as it's a good way to bust your neck. Feet or butt first is the best way to go. If you've got some padding on the rear - may as well use it. Think bomb-drop position. Harder to twist an ass than an ankle. Jumping backwards into the whitewash can also give you a bit of a cushion. Don't, repeat don't, dive forwards into the trough. That is a very kak place to be. Into the wave face itself is OK, there's still water there, but down the bottom in the hollow of the wave....uh-uh, asking for trouble.
Take a breath. Sounds simple. Just don't forget to do it. Getting held down by a big 'un is a lot less fun if you're doing it on anything short of a full lungful. The average person can hold their breath comfortably for 30 seconds, not many wipeouts in our part of the world will hold you down for anything near that.
Cover your pip. Hands and arms become an instant Gath helmet for your head. Protects you from the reef and your board - both of which are just frothing to cause you damage. The consequences of hitting the reef with your head are never good. Had an Aussie mate who crashed into the reef at GLand, took his scalp off and cracked his skull open so you could see his brain peeking through the hole. Luckily got medivac'ed by chopper out to Singapore and spent a month in ICU. He lived to tell the tale. And pay the bill. Unluckily didn't have travel insurance and cost him a cool $250k (Moral of the story: always always always have travel insurance if you're going on a surf trip)
Don't panic. It wastes energy, which uses oxygen, which means you run outta air quicker. Relax, lie back, enjoy the beating. Take your mind to a happy place. Don't try and be in control cos you are not. Come to terms with that. Count slowly if you're someone who panics about running outta breath. Most of the time you'll pop up before 10. Remember you can get to 30 easily.
Holding your breath is as much mental as it is physical. Remember - when that sensation of "I have to breathe RIGHT now" sets in - guess what - your body's just giving you an early warning signal - you can actually hang on for at least another 15 seconds. So don't gulp yet!
On the howling offshore days it's worth staying under water an extra few seconds after wiping out. Listen for that thwack as your board hits the water. Cos it's a helluva lot better than popping up and having it thwack your head. Can't tell you how many times I've seen guys heads pop up and the board is flying back at them like a missile in the wind and misses their pip by inches. Good idea to come up with your hand over your head too - rather have board hit hand than head.
Wipeouts are often more psychological than physical. So get your mind right about the time you'll spend in the rinse and spin cycle and you'll start to enjoy it, not fear it. You can even Frogger it, like Pipe local Casey....