Ocean Safety: Knowing the Current Conditions

The beach has long been a popular spot for families and friends to gather and enjoy cookouts, hangouts, and various water activities. However, besides knowing how to have a good time, it is important for to remember that the ocean is a complex ecosystem. Tides and rip currents can cause dangerous conditions, especially if you are unaware of those conditions and what they mean. The term “dangerous surf conditions” is mentioned most frequently on news stations that cover the beach areas, but often when you are actually ON the beach, you don’t know what they mean. Here is a breakdown of the most common conditions that you should know about.

Dangerous Surf Conditions

  • Lateral currents flow parallel to the beach and can cause weaker swimmers to be pulled into rip currents or heavy surf with their force.
  • Rip currents arestrong water flows that are constantly rushing back out to sea. Larger ones can be recognized by the sandy discoloration of the water that extends from the shore out to sea. The larger and more frequent the waves, the stronger and more dangerous the rip currents can be. If you feel like you’re being pulled out to sea, it is important not to waste your energy fighting to return to shore. Swim parallel to shore to escape the current, then make your way back on to land once you can feel that you are out of it. Fighting the outward flow will only exhaust you faster, which could result in drowning.
  • Backwash happens most commonly on beaches that rise sharply away from the water during high tide. The forceful return of water to the sea in combination with the next incoming wave is particularly dangerous for small children p
    laying near the water’s edge. It has the power to cause a loss of footing that will possibly result in being pulled out to sea.
  • Shore break occurs at high tide during heavy surf conditions. Large waves break on the beach with little or no water underneath them and can cause injury by slamming a swimmer onto the beach or in shallow water, often resulting in serious back, neck and shoulder injuries.

With so many dangerous currents at work, staying safe while enjoying beach activities is important. Here are five tips for staying safe:

1.Visually locate the nearest lifeguard stand. Check to see if it has warnings or instructions posted about current conditions, and swim nearby it, especially if you’re a weak swimmer.

2.Never swim alone, always use the buddy system.

3.Don’t overestimate your swimming ability. Judge your ability to participate based on your swimming skills.

4.Never swim while under the influence. It will impair your judgment and may cause you to take unnecessary risks.

5.Make yourself visible in the water. A colorful bathing suit or bright-colored Nekdoodle® 1NTOWSwimBuddy will help make you visible in the ocean.

With just a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can have a safe and happy time at the beach. Be aware of the weather and surf conditions and know your limitations. Happy swimming!