The doctor is in — the tube

I didn’t know his real name and never bothered to ask. He was introduced to me as Blaze, and even those that know him by his professional name, Doctor Baniadam, agree that it fits. Well, maybe not in his medical practice, where he takes his time and treats each patient as a friend, but in his life as a surfer, where he paddles into waves that most of us paddle away from.
Recently, over a vegetarian lunch at Hill Street Café in Oceanside, I asked Blaze about the health benefits and risks for surfers.
Q: Do you see a link between surfing and good health?
A: Definitely. You see it cardiovascularly and psychologically. When you’re in the water, whatever is bothering you is going to be taken care of within a few minutes. Surfers are more fit and have a certain stoke that others may not have.
Q: What health problems do surfers tend to have that others don’t?
A: Pinkeye, sinus infections, surfer’s ear, things like that can come from polluted water. A lot of times I’ll see pterygium of the eye, caused by sun and wind.
Q: As we age, our bodies tend to become more rigid. Couple that with cold and not exercising regularly, and people can hurt themselves.
A: A lot of these strains happen from not being warmed up before you go. A good five-minute stretch on the beach is recommended to prevent injury. A lot of surfers also do yoga.
Q: You’ve ridden big waves at places like Todos Santos. Most surfers avoid that, because of fear. What do you recommend to those who are afraid?
A: I’d recommend they don’t do it unless they can overcome that fear, to get to the point where they won’t panic. Panic is the worst enemy of the surfer out there. If you panic, you’re in trouble. Kit Horn rode big waves and he taught me a bunch of things — one was that, if you’re down for a while, start counting, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand … Most of the time you don’t get past six or seven, eight or nine. It seems like an eternity, but it’s not. That helps you maintain composure, so you don’t panic and can take care of the situation. Panic leads to a faster heart rate, which leads to a greater need for oxygen. Instead of being able to stay down for 40 seconds in a calm pool, you can only stay down five or six seconds, or less, if you’re really panicked.
Q: What’ the worst situation you’ve been in?
A: I almost died at Todos Santos in the rocks. I fell on the first wave of a set that seemed to have 10 or 12 waves in it. I got hit by all these waves, until I was in the rocks. Eventually I got back out, and there was a jet ski in the channel. I hardly had the energy to grab the sled. I had so much adrenaline that my hands didn’t quit shaking for two hours, like I had just had 100 cups of coffee.
Q: What is the best advice you can give to us, health-wise?
A: Be sure to have a healthy diet, not so much greasy food, or fast food. Get your dose of exercise. If you’re happy and not under excessive stress, you’ll enjoy a healthier physical life.
To learn more about Dr. Baniadam and his practice, Mission Urgent Care, visit


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