I’m in the middle of a Spanish exam scribbling away inside what college professors refer to as a “blue book”, which is really just awkwardly sized sheets of lined paper bound in a little booklet. An hour in I feel rushed. I comprehensively respond to a question about the impact of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and with two questions to go, I begin to question whether I’ll be able to finish. Suddenly, with no rhyme or reason, a cascade of days-old ocean water spews from my nostrils all over my exam, making the print completely unreadable. I have a crisis of conscience – tell my professor and out myself in front of the entire class as a disgusting, snot dripping alien. Or, cover my tracks by trying to dab up the evidence with a tissue or paper towel from the bathroom. What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?!
I wake up from this nightmare dripping sweat. It was just a dream. But shit, the scariest dreams are the ones that are plausible, right?
I had this dream, a variation of it, or thought about how embarrassing a situation like this would be on numerous occasions in college. There’s nothing less opportune than a nasal Niagara Falls when you least expect it. And it’s perhaps one of the most relatable struggles of surfers everywhere.
A quick perusal of the internet reveals plenty lamentations about someone who went to kiss their girlfriend when their nose just unloaded and killed the mood – each with hundreds of “that same thing happened to me” comments. These were no help answering why this happens.
For more insight, I reached out to Dr. Dale Rice who is a doctor and Professor of Otolaryngology (that’s ear nose and throat) at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “This happens to me as well,” he said. “The likely explanation is that the water gets trapped along the lateral wall of the nose (where the sinuses drain) and then is dislodged with a certain movement or position. The water might even get into a sinus and take some time to get back out.”
Pretty simple answer, really. The water gets stuck. The problem is if it’s really in there, all you can do is wait for it to drain, which is particularly disheartening for anyone hoping to relinquish any semblance of control of what ejects from their schnoz.
“I try just moving my head in different positions, but that does not always work – which is why I feel sometimes the water has gotten into a sinus and will just take time,” said Dr. Rice.
If there’s any silver lining it’s that the nose drip is universal among surfers and innocuous for the most part.
According to Dr. Rice, “It is harmless, so I do not worry much about it.”