Surfing as a risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux disease

Clin J Sport Med. 2009 Sep;19(5):388-93. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181b8ef41.


Objective: To compare the prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in surfers versus nonsurfers who participate in other sports activities based on the hypothesis that paddling in the prone position on hard surfboard surfaces leads to increased intra-abdominal pressure and GERD.

Study design: A questionnaire survey using a modified Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale.

Setting: Data obtained from surfers and nonsurfer athletes on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii.

Participants: One hundred eighty-five surfers and 178 nonsurfers who participate in sports activities.

Assessment of risk factors: Surfer or nonsurfer status, type of surfboard used, frequency of surfing, and duration of surfing experience.

Main outcome measures: The prevalence of reflux symptoms at least twice a week (GERD).

Results: The prevalence of GERD was significantly higher in short-board surfers than in nonsurfers with an odds ratio of 4.6 (28% versus 7%, P < 0.001) after adjustment for demographic variables using the multivariate regression model. GERD was more prevalent in short-boarders than long-boarders (28% and 12%, respectively). The prevalence of GERD increased significantly as both the frequency and duration of surfing experience increased (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Surfing is strongly associated with GERD. Short-board surfing appears to have a stronger association with GERD than long-board surfing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prone Position
  • Risk Factors
  • Swimming*
  • Young Adult