Many years ago I was on a feral over­land trip to HT’S, dur­ing a time that the hol­low tree was still stand­ing, and Surfers Of For­tune was yet to be re­leased. To say the area was de­serted is a grand un­der­state­ment. We didn’t see any other peo­ple apart from a few of the vil­lagers for our en­tire stay.

One morn­ing one of the surfers pulled into a back­hand bar­rel and hit the reef so hard on his bum in front of me that I winced on his be­half. The wa­ter was im­me­di­ately awash with blood, and we took him in.

He had a piece of his arse cheek miss­ing. Not a cut, or a scrape, but a rel­a­tively large chunk of arse-meat was gone, pos­si­bly get­ting nib­bled on by small and friendly reef-dwelling fish fam­ily. I had a pretty de­cent first aid kit, how­ever, and it was all that the whole vil­lage had in the way of medicine.

We cleaned his ass ev­ery morn­ing, then af­ter ev­ery surf, and in the evening be­fore we went to sleep. It was tir­ing and ar­du­ous, but the waves were good, and if that hole were to get in­fected, there would have been dire con­se­quences. So we got tooth­brush and per­ox­ide and scrubbed, and he screamed daily.

The Surf­ing Doc­tors is an as­so­ci­a­tion of like-minded med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als who all like to surf, and who are very knowl­edge­able on all sorts of emer­gency medicine and of treat­ing in­juries and deal­ing with trauma in re­mote lo­ca­tions. They have a ros­ter at G-land, they do stints at Mac­a­ro­nis Re­sort, and are cur­rently look­ing at more camps and lo­ca­tions around the world. They look out for surfers, as well as help with lo­cal vil­lagers, from a more benev­o­lent per­spec­tive.

Their very ba­sic premise is that if you are a surfer who is go­ing to travel to off-the-beaten-track lo­ca­tions, then you need a full first aid kit, you have to know how to use it, and you need to be pre­pared to climb in and if nec­es­sary, save some­one’s life.

We hooked up with the Surf­ing Doc­tors founder and di­rec­tor Dr Phillip Chap­man, to chat about these first aid kits and other travel ne­ces­si­ties. Dr Chap­man spent a few years work­ing at the Truro Hos­pi­tal, be­fore tak­ing up a job as the Staff Spe­cial­ist in Emer­gency Medicine at the Bun­bury Re­gional Hos­pi­tal in WA.

“The first thing is your in­sur­ance. You have to have travel in­sur­ance,” said Dr Chap­man. “If you don’t have enough in­sur­ance and you have a bad in­jury at a re­mote lo­ca­tion, you’re go­ing to need to be evac­u­ated, and the he­li­copters are only go­ing to come if you have the right sort of in­sur­ance. Dou­ble check. Make sure. If you’re los­ing blood and they have to trun­dle you out of a place like G-land in a bro­ken down old truck, there’s a chance you’re not go­ing to make it through the night.”

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