Planning to surf on your travels? Find travel insurance that covers both you and your surfboard
It's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of planning a surf trip overseas without giving a second thought to travel insurance. But before jetting off it's crucial to ensure you have the right cover in place to protect you from massive overseas medical bills or damage to your boards. Just imagine if you hit the reef and required a medevac to the nearest hospital a few hours flight away....your health insurance won't be there to cover the $10,000 plus medical bill.
Continue reading through guide to find out how the different Australian insurers cover surfing on different travel insurance policies.
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General exclusions when it comes to surfing cover
- No cover medically if you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- No cover medically if you participate professionally or in a paid capacity
- No cover for personal liability
Surfing is only as risky as you make it and taking precautions can limit the risks considerably. Nevertheless, accidents do happen and some common risks include:
- Serious reef cuts that require immediate medical attention
- Minor reef cuts that can turn into serious infections
- Emergency evacuation from remote areas following injuries
- Serious spinal injuries
- Dengue Fever and Malaria in some island chains
- Infections from sea urchins
- Shark attacks - you never know!
Equipment damage and loss
- Damage: There is nothing worse than forking out serious cash for a new set of boards for a trip only to have them seriously damaged in transit or while on your trip away. A number of insurers will provide cover for damaged equipment though conditions will apply. You may be able to pay a little bit extra to have your board listed as a high value item
- Theft: It's a sad fact that some of the best surf spots around the world are in locations where are also prone to theft of travelling tourists. South America, South Africa and some parts of Europe and Indonesia can at times have sketchy areas where the theft of gear is a threat. Travel Insurance will cover you if your boards are stolen - just remember to get a policy report (usually within 24 hours)
A good comprehensive policy will cover you for medical emergencies, so if you wipe out on a coral reef and receive cuts that need medical treatment, you will be covered for the cost up to the benefit limit.
Yes, but not if you deliberately put yourself in danger
There is a condition in many policies that you must have been taking reasonable care at the time you were injured (i.e. paddling out at Pipe if you have only been surfing a few months). If the insurer can show you put yourself in harms way, they may be able to reject your claim on the basis you did not take reasonable care to protect yourself.
Jasmine's two day experience
Jasmine had completed her second day of surf lessons on her Costa Rican getaway. Confident with her newfound knowledge and familiarity with the board she had been using, Jasmine paddled out to the takeoff zone, eager to catch the towering sets of blue waves. After having some mild success on her first few attempts, Jasmine was hit in the back by a local surfer. When Jasmine tried to claim for her medical treatment and the next two days of hospital stay, she was unfortunately denied. Her travel representative explained that her claim was denied because she had surfed in a known advanced area, with only two days of experience, hence putting herself in harms way.
Yes, but not if you deliberately put yourself in danger
As with coral cuts, cover for shark attack injuries would depend on whether you behaved in a reckless manner or not. If you deliberately surfed in waters known to be shark-infested, your insurer may consider this reckless behaviour and not cover you for your injuries.
A comprehensive policy should include emergency evacuation and repatriation. If you are injured in a surfing accident on a remote island and the nearest hospital is only accessible by emergency airlift, then your insurance would cover the cost.
Yes, but conditions normally include:
- Evacuation must be urgent and medically necessary
- It must be by the most appropriate available means
- Repatriation home is only covered if you are seriously ill or injured and unable to continue your trip.
Johnny's medical evacuation
Johnny was enjoying the final week of his Indonesian trip surfing off a remote island until on one early morning surf, he became the victim of a hard wipeout. The sheer force of the wave dragged Johnny down to a nasty set of coral reefs, cutting his foot wide open. Unable to walk and in need of immediate medical attention, Johnny required a helicopter evacuation as there were no hospitals on the island. Johnny's only alternative was to wait for the next scheduled boat to take him back to the main island of Samba, which would not be until the next morning. Luckily, Johnny had secured a travel insurance policy with cover for surfing before he had left which happily paid for the helicopter evacuation upfront. This allowed Johnny to receive medical attention as soon as possible, avoid an infection and unnecessary financial heartaches.
As mentioned before, there are hazards associated with renting a board as well. A rented board may not be as easy to handle as your own board and you could injure yourself using it. It may also not be as well made and if it breaks, you could end up having to pay for it.
Yes, but usually as an extra
A comprehensive travel insurance policy like one from Go Insurance will offer hired surf equipment theft, breakage and loss cover as part of their "Watersports" option. This will cover damage to a rented board, but you will need to have appropriate documentation to support your claim. This would include the rental contract or receipt and evidence of how much you paid the hirer for repairs. If the rented board was stolen, you will also need to obtain a police report within 24 hours of the theft.
As with most luggage items, if your surfboard is damaged or lost while in the care of the airline, they will usually pay for damages, providing you report the incident as soon as possible. The amount of compensation will depend on the carrier, so if your surfboard is expensive, you would be wise to have travel insurance as well. In such circumstances, your insurer would pay you the difference between what the carrier reimburses you and what the board is insured for.
The best way to ensure your board is not damaged in transit is to buy a good quality board bag and wrap your board securely in bubble wrap, protecting the nose and tail and removing the fins if possible.
The government’s smartraveller website lists five questions you should ask yourself when buying travel insurance, which are equally applicable to Surf Travel Insurance.
- Where are you surfing? If the place you plan to surf remote it would be wise to have emergency evacuation cover
- How long are you surfing for? Is surfing only a part of your itinerary? If so, you may only need to purchase surf cover for that period
- What are you going to do there? If you plan to do any other activities that might be considered risky, such as scuba diving or hang gliding you may need to take out additional cover
- Do you want to cover your boards? If so, you may need to choose a higher benefit limit to cover its replacement cost
- Do you have any medical conditions? If there any pre-existing conditions that you have you must declare them and purchase additional cover if provided, otherwise you won’t be covered
If you’re planning a surfing holiday and don’t yet have a destination in mind, the following are some top surfing spots around the world:
- Bali – amazing beaches with great breaks including Uluwatu, Padang Padang and Impossibles on the West coast and Nusa Dusa, Mushroom Rock and Hyatt Reef on the East coast.
- Gold Coast – with 57 kilometres of coastline, top spots include Snapper Rocks, Burleigh Heads, Stradbroke Island, Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Beach, Miami and Palm Beach.
- Jeffrey's Bay – South Africa's most famous surfing spot and home to the Billabong Pro ASP World Tour. It boasts awesome surf, great swell and an active surfing community.
- Hawaii – the birthplace of surfing, with top spots including Jaws on Maui and the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu for pro surfers and Laniankea on Oahu for everyone else.
- Samoa – warm all year round and with crystal clear water, Samoa offers world class surfing between the main islands of Upolu and Savaii.
- Costa Rica – Central America’s legendary surfing destination, with more than 300 beaches and some of the best waves at Playa Naranjo and Potrero Grande.
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