Surfer's nose: saltwater gets trapped inside the nasal cavity for hours and days | Photo: Shutterstock

It happens all the time, especially if you're a surfer or a swimmer. Have you ever been in a public space, and suddenly your nose starts running furiously?

Ever wonder why hours after surfing you get salt water nose drip?  Well, in the following article we will briefly discuss the anatomy of the nose to explain this bizarre phenomenon.

Imagine you go surfing. The waves are trashy, and you take a beating. Saltwater goes in your nose, your mouth, and ears. You get rolled around like clothes in a washing machine.

At this point, you can see how water will find its way deep into your head. Weird to think. But yes, that water that drips out hours later is most likely buried close to the center of your head.

To explain this anatomy further, observe the following picture:

Nose and nasal cavity: there are lot of areas where water can get trapped

The interesting thing is that the entire nasal cavity is actually larger than your mouth. A lot is going on in there, and there are a lot of channels where water could rest for hours or days.

Without getting too scientific, there are eight major parts that make up the nasal cavity. And you can think of them like floors and rooms in a shopping mall or a maze of roads in a downtown. 

Each section expands and contracts, opens and closes, depending on what signals are given from the brain. In a surfer's case, it is likely that water gets blasted into the nose, and into a section, while wiping out or smacking the water quickly full body.

The brain doesn't always have time to react, so it subconsciously closes areas of the nasal cavity. And water gets trapped inside. You can think of it as the brain's way of protecting itself and you from further disturbances in the nose.

On the flip side, now you have a few extra millimeters of saltwater to drag around until the brain can relax the nasal cavities and release the water.

The time frame of this is never exact or predictable. But you can be certain that you will be surprised when it does happen. Yes, sometimes it can be socially awkward, but you can always tell those around you that you actually "breathe" surfing.

So, how to avoid getting embarrassed by your own passion? Be sure to carry tissues with you. And find comfort in knowing that this is a totally normal phenomenon.

After all, it's only saltwater.


Words by Colin Kirk.