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September 9, 2015 Comments (0) Field Craft

How to Fix a Blown-out Flip Flop.

How to fix a blown out flip flop, prologue.

For this repair you will need a knife, one large safety pin and duct tape. (because all field fixes require duct tape)

The bard Jimmy Buffet has sung of it, it was no doubt a contributing factor to the demise of the mighty Achilles- and if you are without any other foot wear, a blown out flip flop can be a big problem out in the field.

My experience with this and the eventual field remedy occurred during what was supposed to be a quick and easy surf trip to Baja. Seeing an early winter swell approaching, myself and a fellow Lifeguard Rod and his teenage son Rod III decided to make a “tactical strike” south of the border to surf and then be back in time for our shifts 48 hours later.


When we paddled out off a rocky cove, the waves were in the 8 to 10 foot range with larger sets showing every hour or so. To be in position we had to be approximately 300 yards off shore while the biggest sets would break even further out. It wasn’t too pretty out, but we got some waves, always keeping an eye on the horizon for the hourly clean-up set.

After while, a fishing panga with two aboard swung in and headed inside of where we were sitting. We took notice to this as it would take a strong engine and perfect timing for the fishermen to swoop in and quickly pull up their lobster traps before rushing out to the safety of deeper water. This was not to be.

On the fishermen’s second run in to pull a trap, we heard a loud whine and then nothing- the engine had died. Furiously one pulled on the starting cord while the other tried to paddle their boat with an oar that looked more like a 2×4. Just then a dark set of waves appeared on the horizon. Myself and Rod II and Rod III had to paddle for the outside to dodge this large set. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the boat barely make it over the first wave, while the next larger wave was already standing up and starting to throw- they were done for.

As the second wave hit the boat it was spun sideways and flipped over. A subsequent wave hit the boat pushing the capsized hull farther in and creating a “yard sale” of all the contents except the two passengers. The fishermen could not be seen. Immediately we paddled in to look for the fishermen who were wearing waders and heavy winter clothing. As we came closer one, was visible barely keeping his head above water. Rod senior paddled over and hauled the drowning man onto his board. This left the second victim. Many scenarios went through my head as I approached, the most likely being that I was going to have to cut away my board and dive under and search beneath the hull. Luckily for me, but not the fisherman, I saw that he had popped up and was being smashed upon the cobblestones by the shore pound. He had nothing left and was attempting to crawl out on his hands and knees to safety. He was stuck in a cycle of the waves smashing him on the rocks only to pull him back out and repeat the process. Rod the younger and I headed to him and dragged him up to safety. Off hand he appeared to have aspirated water and had injured his ribs and side but he was at least on dry ground now.

As we walked the two nearly drowned men back to to where we had parked- it was then my sandal decided to give out. (Señor Murphy never takes a holiday) The webbing that goes between the toes gave out as I was stepping down, sending my foot shooting forward and my big toe kicking a small boulder. My big toe nail was completely peeled back like the hood of a car. (yeeouch!!!)

As I waited for Rod Sr. to take one of the fisherman back to the fishing village where he came from and the other was driven to the hospital by some local bystanders, I set about fixing my toe and then my sandal which was the only footwear I had on the trip.

The toe was easy, I grit my teeth and tore the nail the rest of the way off and then wrapped it in 4X4 gauze and Coban. (see our article on Coban)

For the blown out sandal, I scrounged through my first aid kit and what I had on hand in my surf pack and got to work.

The repair. 

For this repair you will need a knife, one large safety pin and duct tape. (because all field fixes require duct tape)

Step 1 – Use your knife to bore a small hole all the way through the rubber of your sandal where the toe strap used to be attached.


Step 2- Push the broken strap through the hole and out the other side.

Step 3- Insert the safety pin through the nylon making a cross bar, high enough up that it wont pull through the material. Close the safety pin. (crimp the end if you can, to prevent it from opening)


Step- 4- Cover the flattened safety pin with a couple of layers of duct tape.



You are done, go get some fish tacos!

If the webbing is too tight to fit your foot in the sandal, you can also fashion a new toe strap with some parachute cord. Loop the cord over the side straps like a larks foot and push through the hole. You can simply tie a fat overhand knot to keep it from pulling out of the sole and trim the excess. You will feel the knot as you step but it beats stepping on rocks and broken glass barefooted.

Go get fish tacos!



We got lucky that day, if we hadn’t been surfing that unruly mess, one of the fishermen would have probably died. Later that day, Rod and some other fishermen returned in a second boat and were able to recover the the sunken boat which had been pulled by the current back out to sea. That night we had Baja style lobster before returning to San Diego and going to work the next day.

As for the blown out flip flop, the repair lasted several months until I finally got sick of periodically replacing the worn through duct tape patches and bought a new pair of sandals.

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