Beach Safety tips >
Beach Safety Guide: The goal of this section is
not to scare you but to make you aware of potential dangers that you can
encounter when entering the Pacific Ocean.
With millions of people visiting
California Beaches each year, accidental deaths by drowning are rare. Some
common sense tips will help you avoid the pitfalls a few unfortunate people
have made. Just being in a group does not assure you won't encounter
Learn about these currents:
SLEEPER WAVES: Without
warning, huge "sleeper" waves sometimes hit the shore. These giants crash
much farther up the beach than normal waves. They can knock down both
children and adults, and drag them into deep water. Always keep an eye on
the surf and keep children away from the foam line.
RIP CURRENTS: Rip currents
are swift rivers of backwash surging through the surf. Early breaking waves
and choppy foamy or discolored water mark these danger zones. If caught in a
rip current, do not swim against it. Swim parallel to the beach until free
of the current, then head for shore.
BACKWASH: On steep beaches,
even normal waves create a dangerous backwash of water rushing back into the
Unfortunate accidents that
occur to even veteran surfers are a broken neck, spinal injuries and
paralysis. Innocent youth and adults who run and dive into the water can
encounter sand instead water. And surfers on boards are injured by being
dumped with strong force into sandbars while riding on a wave. Sometimes the
accidents just happen and the surfer was unable to anticipate a condition.
But at a minimum, do not run and dive into the water near the shore. It's
best to walk into the surf.
Surfing safety includes
several recommendations for beginners. It is a good idea to take a
lesson or two when first surfing. Not only will your instructor teach
you the basics of surfing, he or she will also watch for your safety.
Lessons are available daily from beach concessions and by arrangement at
Stay away from the pier
pilings when first learning how to surf. Even veteran surfers
occasionally are driven toward the pier. The barnacles on the pier tear
your skin and create serious damage. You do not want to surf into the
Do not challenge surfers
or threaten to fight. While most are professional and polite, if a
territorial situation occurs, you simply want to move away from the
surfer and find another spot. The person you encounter is usually more
skilled than yourself on a board and has an advantage over you.
Stay out of the water
after it rains. Surfers who go in after rain complain of flu-like
symptoms, nausea and other illnesses. The bacterial levels after a rain
are high and you probably will get sick. Though not fail-proof, check
water quality reports from www.healthebay.org and ask lifeguards and
locals if there are water quality issues in a particular area. Surfers
who spend lots of time in the water get hepatitis shots as preventive
maintenance. There is a reason they do so.
Beach germs in the form of
the bacteria, enterococcus, which is one of three measured by regulators
to determine whether human sewage is present in a water sample, is
linked to tides in a study that points to an odd lunar pattern in ocean
contamination. People worried about exposure to bacteria might want to
avoid swimming in the ocean during new or full moons, according to a new
study. The study of 60 beaches from Point Zuma to Corona del Mar in
Southern California showed that counts of one type of bacteria
associated with human sewage rise at certain times during the lunar
cycle. Although the reason this happens it not clear, and environment
engineer who first noted the pattern in Huntington Beach discovered the
effect is wide-spread. Alexandria Boehm, a Stanford University
environmental engineer discovered that tides that occur during new or
full moons correlate to levels of bacteria harmful to humans. Though the
effect, which was first noticed in 1999 is well documented, it is
considered too small an effect to be used for closing beaches.
Safety Tips from the Beach
Never swim alone.
Swim near a lifeguard.
Never drink alcohol before swimming.
Check with the lifeguards for current ocean conditions.
BLUFF CAUTION: The bluffs and cliffs along the beaches are often made of
sandstone and are constantly eroding. This erosion is usually slow but
sometimes can occur in bluff failures or collapses. Avoid walking on or
sitting directly underneath unstable bluffs, overhangs and caves.
STINGRAY: Stingrays are found in the shallow water seasonally. They are not
aggressive animals but are equipped with a bard and venom gland on their
tail that they use as a defense mechanism. To avoid stingrays, shuffle your
fee along the sandy bottom while exiting and entering the water. If stung,
report to the nearest staffed lifeguard station for first aid. If allergic
reaction occurs, call 911 immediately.