Much has been written (most of it by me) about the potential for falling several stories while roofing. Shingle surfing is one of the more popular modes of slipping from a roof, but there are a variety of others, including collapsing scaffolding, tripping on a bundle of shingles, and looking the other way while walking off the edge.
Shingle surfing has much to recommend it over ocean surfing: you are not likely to drown; a surf shingle probably will not kill you if it hits you in the back of the head; and for sheer terror ocean surfing cannot come close.
I have a personal experience with shingle surfing. It happened while I was sitting about three feet from the edge of a second story roof. For security, I had tied a rope through my belt loops. As I worked, I kept my immediate supply of shingles under a knee to prevent their sliding.
My roofing technique is to line up a shingle and lightly pound a nail until it stands on its own, then I drive the nail home with two or three good whacks.
On this particular occasion, I must have been distracted by a bird or an insect (it could not have been inattention) because I missed the nail completely.
The nail popped out of the shingle and began to slide toward the edge of the roof. Watching the nail slide, I was like a cat mindlessly playing with a ball of string. My instinct to grab the nail overpowered my fear of plunging twenty feet to the cement walkway below.
When I reached out to grab the nail, I naturally put all of my weight on the leg securing the loose shingles. Of course, the shingles began to slide...and so did I. With eyes wide and heart pounding, I rode those shingles to the end of my makeshift harness.
They say that when faced with death, a man's life flashes before his eyes. I had a very different vision. I could see myself either hanging over the side of the house and being rescued by laughing firefighters; or worse, I might flip upside down and spill out of my pants. The paramedics would find me lying on the ground in my underwear, and my pants hanging in the air.
Thankfully, I reached the end of my tether before I ran out of roof. I did get close enough to the edge that my legs dangled over the side. I watched my shingle surfboards flutter to the ground below. I am proud of the presence of mind that I displayed in this emergency; as it happens, I recalled my safety training. I yelled, "Look out beloooow!"
Those who heard me claim my warning sounded more like, "AAAAAAAA." I admit it came out rather choked and high-pitched. I can explain this: the taut rope turned my jeans into bib overalls, and while kicking my legs in the air, I got the wedgy of the century.