Being water competent in the ocean requires stronger and different skills than in a pool or lake. Whenever you are at the beach and choose to get into the ocean or other open water environment, watch and prepare for changing tides, fast currents, strong waves, unexpected changes in water temperature, hazards, and more! Be water safe and review the below information before heading out for a fun beach day!
Establish and Enforce Water Safe Behaviors
Before running across the sand and to the water, talk to your family and young children about the importance of water safety! Consider enforcing these rules:
- Ensure every member of your family knows how to swim so they can at least achieve skills of water competency: enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance, exit the water safely.
- Enter the water feet first: only dive into water that is at least 9 feet deep and clearly marked. Never dive into surf!
- Be careful when standing near breaking waves to avoid being knocked over and/or tumbled by large waves and currents.
- Always swim sober.
- Identify a water watcher: supervise those in the water without distractions like reading, talking, or using a cell phone.
- Swim with a buddy, even in lifeguarded areas.
- Never swim during a Red Flag Warning. During Red Flag Warnings, wind is strong, currents are stronger, and waves are large. Even experienced swimmers can face trouble during an event like this.
- Know what to do in a water emergency: including how to help someone in trouble by calling 9-1-1 and starting CPR if needed.
Dangers of rip currents:
Responsible for most rescues performed by lifeguards, rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that can form in any large open body of water, such a low spots and breaks in sandbars or near structures like jetties and piers. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can pull a victim out to sea much faster than even the strongest swimmers can move.
How to escape a rip current:
If caught in a rip current:
- Stay calm.
- Swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current. Only then should you turn and swim to shore.
- Float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head to shore.
- Draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help, especially if you can't make it to shore by yourself.
- Don't swim against it, you can become easily fatigued and more susceptible to drowning.
If someone else is caught in a rip current:
- Get immediate help from a lifeguard.
- If no lifeguard is available, call 9-1-1.
- Throw the victim something that floats: like a lifejacket, cooler, or inflatable ball.
- Yell instructions on how to escape. Remember- swim parallel to shore!
- Do not get in the water to help unless you are a trained rescue swimmer. The current can easily pull you in as well.