River Surfing Accident & Incident Database
Created by Neil Egsgard of Surf Anywhere
Individual accident / incident reports by submitters
The purpose of recording accident, incident & near miss details is to identify actual river surfing dangers & learn from what actually happens so we can reduce future risks. All information is publicly and freely available.
Accidents shown are only what was reported to this database and do not accurately show relative dangers of different waves / rivers.
TimestampDescription of IncidentGear Related to IncidentType of InjuryLinks to Additional DetailsCountryRegion in Country (State/Province/etc)Closest CitySection of River
Flow at Time of Incident
Gauge Level at Time of Incident
Gauge Name
River Section Difficulty
WeatherDate of IncidentTime of IncidentSubmitted by WitnessRiver Name
5/4/2020 13:52:53Leash went around rock just before jumping out on wave. Surfer jumped out without noticing the leash being caught on rock. The force of the jump pulled the XM Power-Clip pin tab off the leash. Board went one way around a rock and the surfer the other. Surfer was not able to pull the pin because the pin was flopping around and could not get the correct angle. There was complete failure of the release system and surfer had to lift the board and leash from behind the rock to get out.
XM Powerclip knee leash. New leash.
Near MissCanadaABCalgary10th Street Wave80 to 90 cmsBow River at CalgaryClass ICloudy5/11/20196:00:00 PMYesBow River
4/28/2020 6:39:22I experienced an incident at Sewer wave that could have been fatal. Trying to swim back to shore as usual, I realized too late that I was further and it was not possible. Being exhausted, the strong current carried me unwillingly to a tree. I panicked and tried to climb on tree to keep my head above water. When I tried to untie the leash hanging from my waist, I was carried under the tree. I never managed to get the velcro off my belt (I was wearing Xcel mittens). At one point I had to let go and took a chance to be carried under the tree and away by the current and hoped that I wasn't going to be trapped by branches.

As a beginner river surfer, here are the lessons I learned from this experience:

Wearing an ankle leash would have prevented me from getting my head out of the water but having the waist leash gave me a physical advantage. However, the long velcro on the Leashlok was too difficult for me to undo in the emergency situation I found myself in. If any branches where underwater, my chances of survival would have been greatly diminished. My helmet probably also saved my life: it protected my head which could have hit the tree violently and caused a concussion.

Always plan an escape route: Ask the more experienced surfers what route to take. Practice swimming the routes to be confident an able to get out safely, especially when you have no white-water experience (like me). Always surf with others: the surfers who were there acted quickly to help me. Thanks to all of you. I am so grateful to be welcomed in the great RSOG community. Just be safe so that we don’t lose any of you.
Leash, mittens, quick release
Near drowingCanadaOntarioOttawaSewer Wave4/12/2020YesOttawa River
7/7/2019 21:46:18running river, leash caught in tree with board and dragged me under, was under but managed to cut leash and escape and gather gear with support down stream assistingSUP LeashNear MissAustralia Queensland AustraliaMareeba
Atherton to Mareeba section
HighNot knownKnownLevel 3sunny5/5/201912:00:00 PMYesBarron Gorge
7/7/2019 10:43:10Surfer was not managing his ankle leash as he leap off the rock towards the wave. His leash wrapped around the rock pulling him under and holding him in the tubular eddy. He was held under for about 20sec, before his leash slipped off the rock with the force and twisting of the water. From the position he was in he was unable to self rescue and on shore the one person wearing a PDF and helmet was preparing to assist if he wouldn’t have flushed.
Ankle leash, no PDF, no helmet
Near MissUSA Wyoming AlpineLunchcounter 10506 cfs
Ab reservoir near alpine Wy
Class 3 Sunny 7/3/20194:00:00 PMYesSnake
7/6/2019 6:50:21David Riordon I got held down for what seemed an eternity (must have been around 20secs) right after I hit the water. I was wearing an inflatable pfs and a quick release leash attached to my belt. First 10 secs I remained calm amd let the water do its thing but as time passed I was getting shaken all over the place. Is at this point thast I let my paddle go and started to tey to come up instead of reaching for my leash to get to the board or simply deploy the pfd. It took another 10secs or so for me to come up and I litteraly came uo with my last breath. I was already gulping and was seeing flashes of my kids, like a movie.
Few things I learnt from this experience
1) When shit hits the fan you dont do what you are supposed to. Some kind of breathing/yoga could be really helpfull
2) Inflatable pfd's can help providing you are focused enough to know WHEN to deploy them.
3) Panic is your worst enemy
4) If you are surfing in a place where rescue takes more than 15secs to arrive, a pfd is strongly recommended

I got dragged under immediately after touching water after a ride so was out of breath. The day after the incident went right back at the wave, surfed it and fell at the same spot this time wearning a pfd and falling grabbed to the board. The whirpoil was strong enough to feel the pull under even tho I was holding the board. I passed to 3 of them and was able to realyze the shit I went udenr the day before.
Even tho I have been surfing the same spot for over 15urs, this has changed my perception and probably my approach to this spot in particular
supNear drowingCanadaQuebecMontrealHabitat6711400 cfsbegginersunny amd hot6/28/20191:00:00 PMNoSt Lawrence
3/4/2019 18:53:59Surf board got sucked under an ice shelf on the exit side of sewer, surfer was unable to reach her ankle leash on her own and was being pulled under by her board. Fellow surfer had to grab her leash and remove it for her.Surf boardNear MissCanadaOntarioGatineau SewerSunny3/1/201912:00:00 PMYesOttawa River
7/19/2018 11:26:53Phil’s epic Classic leg entrapment

I wanted to take a week before I wrote this, to gain some perspective, but last Saturday I barely survived a classic leg entrapment on my local run, my comfort river, on a Grade 3+ feature. Here is what happened.

I’ve been paddling white water for 6 years and intensely for the last 4. I’m competent and confident and I’ve probably run that feature 200 times, and I haven’t swum it in over a year. It’s not a feature that I’m nervous about – it’s an everyday feature of the river for me and last Saturday I had run it 4 times before the entrapment happened on the 5th.

I’d been out with several groups of friends on the day and 5 or 6 of us set off together on that 5th run. I was pushing things, testing my new boat, and was having a great day. At the top of the feature I got a move wrong, ended in a stopper sideways and got flipped out of the boat. I pushed out of the boat ahead of a notoriously manky swim..

I felt my foot entrap and in a heartbeat was flipped over like a rag doll to the position in the sketch above. I imagined that my arse was out of the water and I was an inch or so below the surface, clearly visible. I was actually close to the river bed several feet below. The pain in my leg, pinned against the rock, was excruciating which caused me to throw up in the water almost instantly.

However, then I realised the force of the water flowing over me had created a massive air pocket, a void the width of my shoulders, and a jet stream of water coursing around me which moved if I moved my head. There was no water on my face or splashing – I could open my mouth and eyes. Surreal. I found that I could breathe deeply and calmly and think clearly about what was happening. I was in terrible pain in my leg but I think adrenalin kicked in and I went from sheer panic to a very calm state. I think we have some form of super strength or focus to allow that to happen – self preservation perhaps.

My foot was trapped but my knee was hyperextended in the wrong direction. I knew that my leg would snap easily if I forced it, but I could rationalise that breaking my leg would not have helped (it wouldn’t have freed my foot). However, it a huge amount of energy to lock my arms out in a press up position on the river bed; against the force of the water, this is all I could do to keep the weight off my knee. I had to keep thinking ‘they’re coming – wait – breathe’.

I still thought that I was fully visible and someone would quickly and easily be able to pull me out. Meantime, the reality was that my good paddler friend Sonia had watched it unfold and had seen exactly where I’d gone under. She shouted Bobby who was in an eddy upstream. I was lucky that there were two paddlers upstream at the point. To their horror, as they set up to do a rescue, I was totally invisible (white helmet, blue/black BA). They couldn’t even make out a body shape through the aerated water.

I’d actually ended up a meter from the edge – between them using slings, etc, they’d got into a position where Bobby could reach me, and I was freed. We don’t know whether he dislodged a boulder, pulled me out, or I relaxed enough to come free, but knowing that Bobby was there was a massive lift and suddenly I’m thrown out downstream and into an eddy. It wasn’t textbook and it happened very quickly.

I was 2’ under water, totally invisible and I’d been underwater for some minutes. Sonia and Bobby did not know that I had a pocket of air to allow me to breathe. From my rescuers perspective I can’t imagine how terrifying it must’ve been to pull out a fellow paddler and friend. It couldn’t have looked like a good outcome at that stage.

I was dragged out to a picnic bench and a crowd of people. I felt huge relief but looking at Bobby and Sonia’s faces brought it home – I think I changed state again then and the horror of it hit me hard.

I am so grateful to so many; Bobby and Sonia of course but also Dave Kohns Hollins a coach working the river that day who checked me over and gave me first aid. Other people collected my kit, Dave got me back to the van, etc. The raft guides, centre staff, the minibus driver – I felt so much love and professional care from all of them – I’m blown away by their incredible help and support.

So, nothing broken but lots of deep tissue damage to my lower leg and knee – it remains to be seen how and when I can back on the river.

This highlights how vulnerable to the river we are as paddlers. I was perhaps complacent in knowing the river so well. We were a group of experienced paddlers with all the right kit and we all had done our safety and rescue courses. It just isn’t like the text book; the force of the water, the speed that it goes from fun to life and death, meant everything was different. I was so lucky to have two very experienced and alert paddlers upstream who understood the seriousness and took drastic actions quickly. Those of us there on the day felt that we wanted to share this experience more broadly, within the paddling community.

A sobering experience which I’ll reflect on as my leg heals, but with hindsight I’ve been very lucky. What if I hadn’t had an air pocket, if I’d been the last person on the run; on busier days there would have been more white water rafts which could have paddled straight over me; I was lucky too that England were playing and the river was quiet. Thank you from me and my family to everyone involved.

There’s lots of if’s and but’s here including the need for a bomb-proof roll. In this case the roll could’ve prevented it happening, but that wasn’t how it played out. The roll doesn’t work in every scenario. Similarly, Bob couldn’t attach a line to me – in this case a cow-tail (no longer used) may have made a big difference.

For me, the river’s engrained in my DNA – this won’t stop me boating, but it will make me stronger and help me to keep learning as a paddler.

I’d welcome constructive feedback, thanks

Cheers, Phil
Leg and leg entrapmentNear Miss
United KingdomWalesBalaGraveyard Tryweryn3+7/8/2018YesAfon Tryweyn
6/11/2018 8:33:50As I coming up the surface, just after a fall from my surfboard, I felt a huge blow on my forehead. I realize soon that I was bleeding abundantly from a gaping wound. Reaching the shore, a few passerbies helped me find some towels and drove my car to the nearest hospital. THANK YOU for the beautiful gesture. Later on, after 4 stiches, I saw that the nose of my board was broken and loose about 1inch from the tip. I am not sure what happened; I had a leash but didn’t feel any stretch. I think the board was projected by the second wave.Surfboard 6’Head InjuryUSAIdahoBoiseWhitewater ParkSunny6/8/201811:45:00 AMNoBoise River
3/21/2018 17:12:52I was surfing on the wave like the whole summer. That day I was alone on the wave since more than one hour. At 14:30 my friends arrived at the wave, changed clothes to neoprene and joined me surfing. Around 3pm I fell into the water (like 100 times before) the river took me and washed me down. Then suddenly I felt my floating has stopped, the water pushed me down. I tried to reach the leash on my leg to get out but had no chance against the water! At this moment I realized I was trapped! After a second try to come to my leash I knew that I am going to die within the next minutes. I didn`t stop fighting, but I was sure that this are my last seconds.
After about 50 seconds of fighting I felt that I was floating again. A friend helped me to reach the shore. The other friend had opened my leash on the boardside! He could only reach my board which stucked on an obstacle!
I had no chance to survive that story without my friends.
I had no physical injuries but I will never forget that moments! I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future.
Leash and SurfboardNear drowingSlovakiaBratislavaBratislavaSurf Wave11/15/20143:00:00 PMYesDivoka Voda
7/5/2017 6:47:39Feuerwehr Muenchen:
On a school trip in a eventarena, a 13-Year-old girl was seriously injured by a surfboard.
The girl was on an artificially generated wave while surfing. She fell into the water from a surfboard. The Board was thrown from the wave to the girl and hit them with full force in the neck. The 13-Year-old left the surf wave without any other help. An ambulance and an ambulance were used by the local police. Due to the severity of the injuries, an emergency ambulance has been requested by an ambulance. In order to ensure a gentle and rapid transport, a rescue helicopter was requested. After the rescue team from the rescue team, the girl was transported to a Munich clinic. Through the fast and fast-moving rescue chain, the girl was able to provide the quickest and best possible treatment.

Feuerwehr Muenchen:
Bei einem Schulausflug in einer Eventarena, wurde ein 13-jähriges Mädchen von einem Surfbrett schwer verletzt.
Das Mädchen war auf einer künstlich erzeugten Welle beim Surfen. Dabei stürzte sie vom Surfbrett ins Wasser. Das Brett wurde von der Welle auf das Mädchen geschleudert und traf sie mit voller Wucht im Genick. Die 13-jährige verließ die Surfwelle ohne fremde Hilfe. Durch den Sanitätsdienst vor Ort wurde ein Notarzt sowie ein Rettungswagen hinzugerufen. Aufgrund der Schwere der Verletzungen wurde durch den Notarzt ein Kindernotarzt nachgefordert. Um einen schonenden und zügigen Transport gewährleisten zu können, wurde ein Rettungshubschrauber angefordert. Nach der Erstversorgung durch das Team der Rettungskräfte wurde das Mädchen in eine Münchner Spezialklinik transportiert. Durch die schnelle und zügig in Gang gesetzte Rettungskette, konnte das Mädchen schnellst- und bestmöglich versorgt werden.
Surf BoardNeck injuryDeutschlandBayernMunichBeginner7/4/2017No
Pump based stationary wave
6/10/2017 0:00:00Foot Entrapment. Pinned in rocks below the bridge on river right side. Eric says he owes his life to his quick release -
releasing his board allowed him to keep his head above water, and a whistle - got the attention of his rescuer.
Eric suffered severe torque on his knee and fought to stay above water for 20-25 minutes.
foot entrapmentnear missUSAColoradoGlenwood Springs
Glenwood Whitewater Park
13-14,000 cfsIntermediate2014??
Interview with Eric Allen (victim)
6/9/2017 9:45:49A 50-year-old woman from the Carson Valley nearly drowned in South Lake Tahoe Wednesday after she fell off her paddle board and got caught underwater in the cold and swift Upper Truckee River.

At 1:04 p.m., South Lake Tahoe Police and Fire Rescue received the emergency call. Sgt. Jason Cheney was less than a minute away and was first on the scene. He pulled off his vest and jumped into the water. He commandeered a paddle board from someone at the scene and paddled to the unidentified woman. Cheney attempted to pull her out of the water when he saw her ankle was still tethered to the board, keeping her underwater.

A good Samaritan came to assist Cheney and got her leg freed. He then got her to shore near the Highway 50 bridge by 1:10 p.m. and immediately started lifesaving procedures. Paramedics arrived and took over CPR and got her into an ambulance to take her to Barton Hospital.

According to Cheney, doctors there got her stable with a heartbeat and put her on a ventilator, then she was transported to Renown in Reno by CalStar.
As of 7:55 p.m. she was still alive at Renown, Cheney said.
The victim had been wearing a life preserver but it fell off during rescue attempts prior to the arrival of Cheney. She spent about 5-7 minutes underwater before Cheney was able to get her head above water.
Cheney said people who are underwater in such cold temperatures have a better chance of recovery than if the water was warm. It's easier to preserve brain functions.
Ankle LeashFatal
USACaliforniaSouth Lake TahoeUpper Truckee River750 cfs6/7/20171:00:00 PMNoTruckee River
12/21/2016 0:00:00"Tomahawk Board". Surfer using NSP board, uncontrolled fall. Leash tightened when board was in the air and shot back stiking the surfer in the head. Surfer treated with stichesNSP Board / LeashStiches
CanadaAlbertaCalgaryOld Green Tongue32 cms
TransAlta Barrier Dam Flow info
N/AN/AJune 10 2007
No (reported on arsa forum)
9/8/2016 10:23:22River surfer attempted to stand up in moving current resulting in a foot entrapment. Due to being so close to shore a fellow paddler was able to make her way to the surfer and rescue the surfer from what could have been a fatal incident. Ankle leash and no life jacket Near MissUSAColoradoGlenwood SpringsGlenwood Wave 14,000 CFSN/A
Two Rivers to South Canyon
Class II-IIINoColorado River
8/17/2016 21:58:21Michael Nelson, 23, of Boise died Monday evening of accidental drowning, Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg reported late Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses say Nelson was "surfing" on a piece of plywood tied to a New York Canal diversion dam near Five Mile Road when his foot became tangled in a rope and he was pulled under the water, the Ada County Sheriff's Office reported. He is believed to have been submerged for 10 to 15 minutes before a passerby was able to free him and pull him to shore.
Plywood and ropeFatal
USAIDBoiseNew York CanalNANANACanalNA8/5/2014No
Boise River/New York Canal
8/17/2016 21:52:42Fatality occurred on the Boise River near the Willow Lane Athletic Complex in northwest Boise. Witnesses say Taylor Wood, 23, had been boogie boarding using a rope tied to a tree. The witnesses, who are friends of the Wood say the last time they saw the man, he appeared to be pulling himself to shore with the rope. The witnesses say they walked away for a short time and when they returned Wood was under water. It's unknown exactly how long he was submerged.
Officers say it appears Wood's boogie board became caught in some tree branches. He was found with the ankle strap to his boogie board still attached to his leg which may have been what pinned him under the water.
The friends were able to call for help, pull him to shore and begin CPR. Firefighters and paramedics continued life saving measures. However, Wood was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Boogie boardFatal
USAIDBoiseIn townNANANALowNA7/20/201312:53:00 PMNoBoise
8/17/2016 12:42:53A tow rope was being used to enter a wave on the river right side of the large rock island downstream of Superwave. After catching the wave, the surfer continued to hold onto the tow rope. The surfboard perled and was thrown downstream and the leash plug pulled out. The surfer continued to body surf while holding the tow rope. After a few minutes, with no other options, the surfer released the rope and was swept downstream in to heavy white water. The surfer was not wearing a PFD and was pulled under a number of times by whirlpools. The aerated water and lack of floation made swimming very difficult. As the water sped up the bubbles left the water and the surfer was able to swim to shore just before the next set of rapids. The board was recovered far downstream. There were no injuries.Tow rope, no PFD, leashNear MissUSAMontanaKootenai FallsChallengingSunnyYesKootenay River
8/17/2016 8:07:58The rope between the surfer and the board got stuck at a stone underneath the water surface. The surfer was pushed under the surface by the water flow, couldn't come up anymore and drowned.Rope, BoardFatal
AustriaStyria130 cm
Sunny8/13/20166:00:00 PMNoKoppentraun
8/6/2022 12:55:15I tried to avoid tow rope that most ppl use to tow in to Sewer wave, as I am very wary of ropes and prefer to paddle in for safety's sake. Somehow the current pulled the rope back towards me as I paddled in and it caught my leash. Rope immediately pulled me to the bottom of the river and I was dragged along the rocks, held to the bottom. I pulled my quick release waist belt at the same time as my leash broke, swam to my board, and exited the water in the middle of the Ottawa River Safety Course (ironically lol). Close call but the waist leash was easy to pull and I felt myself release right away. Not sure why the leash also broke but I guess I was doubly saved. It reaffirmed my belief in pull tab style waist belts as opposed to hoping that zip ties will break, or a long Velcro waist belt that is harder to pull. 5 or 6 witnesses on scene, including my wife who was ready to cut the rope if necessary. Tow ropeNear MissCanada Ontario GatineauSewar WaveN/aN/aN/aBeginner/intermediateSunny6/18/202212:00:00 PMNoOttawa River
8/15/2016 0:00:00Leash caught on underwater rock in 3 ft deep water. Board went on one side of rock and surfer went the other. Unable to reach ankle leash to release and leash would not break. River was forcing surfer to the bottom. Struggled for 5 minutes to keep head above water with one leg pushing off the bottom. After 5 mintes, gave up struggle and the lease somehow releasedAnkle LeashNear DrowningCanadaAlbertaSurfers Wave30 cms2012NoKananaskis
8/15/2016 0:00:00Leash caught on underwater rock in 3 ft deep water. Board went on one side of rock and surfer went the other. Unable to reach ankle leash to release and leash would not break. River was forcing surfer to the bottom. Other surfers on site were able to hold victim above water and then pull him upstream to release leash entrapment. Ankle LeashNear DrowningCanadaAlbertaSurfers Wave30 cms2012NoKananaskis
8/15/2016 0:00:00Surfer was pinned by board against tree branches in the water (strainer). Surfer's head was underwater. Surfer was unable to free themself from board and drowned.Board and leashFatal
CanadaQuebecMontrealHabitat 6722-May-2016NoSt. Lawrence
8/15/2016 0:00:00Surfer was paddling out the race course at the end of long session. River had changed recently due to construction and surfer had not scouted. Surfer did not identify large rock just barely underwater until it was too late. Surfer was briefly pinned against boulder by board with head and shoulders above water. Surfer was able to climb out of water and retreive board.Board and no leashNear MissCanadaAlbertaRace Course30 cms2-Feb-2016YesKananaskis
8/15/2016 0:00:00Board was tied to rope that was attached to shore. Surfer fell and became tangled in the rope. People cut the rope to free the surfer but attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful.Rope tied to boardFatal
USAMontana8-June-2015NoNorth Fork of Flathead
8/15/2016 0:00:00River consisted of rock berms narrowing river then opening into pools. Surfer was swimming downstream after board. Surfer was immediately beside berm as he went from upstream pool to downstream pool. Surf flipped upside down as he went over drop and got head and shoulder lodged in rocks with waist and legs above water. Surfer was able to free himself.NoneNear MissCanadaAlbertaRace Course2006NoKananaskis
8/15/2016 0:00:00River made a sharp turn against a rock cliff. River was fast moving and inexperienced surfer was caught between board and rock wall. Force of water pinned the surfer against the wall with their head above water. Surfer was rescued by others.Surf BoardNear MissCanadaAlbertaWall2007NoKananaskis
6/11/2015 0:00:00The man fastened himself to a rock in the river and was subsequently drowned after falling into the Flathead River and being tangled in the rope. Likely "Riverboarding" not surfing a stationary waveFatal
North Fork of the Flathead River west of Glacier National Park
7500 cfsNews Report