Catch a Wave, Catch E-Coli?

Point Break. The Beach Boys. The Endless Summer. Surfing!

The sport, romance, and culture of surfing has captured the imagination of people everywhere for centuries. It’s no surprise that people have been doing it for so long. Why flap your arms and legs just plain swimming when you can master the water and “fly” atop the foam?

But in a recent study conducted by the University of Exeter in the UK, surfers may be catching more than a wave when they take to the water. Researchers have concluded that surfers swallow approximately ten-times the amount of seawater than regular swimmers. This wouldn’t be a bad thing, if coastal water was clean. The news is out, everywhere: it’s not. Even Redditors are horrified!

In the study, brilliantly named “Beach Bums,” scientists from the university’s medical school have partnered with the environmental advocacy group, “Surfers Against Sewage,” to test the fecal matter of nearly 300 volunteers, half surfers and half not. The results are startling.

Surfers in the study were three-times as likely to carry antibiotic-resistant superbugs and dangerous bacteria than regular swimmers. As the world of medicine grapples with the impending doom of the failure of antibiotics, this is seriously scary news for surfers, the people they share their lives with, and all of us.

In an interview with the UK’s Independent, the lead researcher on the project, Dr. Anne Leonard, emphasized that “we urgently need to know more about how humans are exposed to these bacteria.”