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Huntington Beach Marine Safety Day - Saving Lives through Education

Huntington Beach, Calif.--Even during Huntington Beach's Marine Safety Open House Weekend, the rescues continue as seen in photos.

Huntington Beach, Calif.―It's just another day in paradise at Huntington Beach and all the California beaches. But on any given day, there's likely to be a beach rescue such as the one we captured on video. Swimmers, body boarders and even  fishermen can get swept into dangerous currents that they cannot escape. National Beach Safety Week is but one of many efforts to help the public be safe and have fun in the nation's waterways, parks, lakes and oceans.

This directive (of beach safety) is the impetus for marine safety divisions of many of the state of California's beach operations to hold public safety days and open house invitations to the public. Seeking to educate water-goers about not just the dangers, but how to avoid or escape them, thousands of lives have been saved through this effort. As part of National Beach Safety Week, held usually in May before the launch of the Memorial Weekend summer beach season, lifeguard and marine safety stations and headquarters hold open house to let public know that they can find information, assistance and the tools to cope with the dangers of the aquatic conditions in oceans, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools.

On a recent Huntington Beach open house weekend, the ocean showed the dark, murky colors of a red tide, and beneath those waters and within the waves were the signs of rip currents near the Huntington Beach Pier. When the water is blue or green, the rip currents are easier to spot, seen as brown, choppy water. But when the water itself is brown, the rip currents are harder to delineate.  

Two young body boarders did most everything right. They went out into the water together and they wore their wetsuits. But the water quickly pulled them away from shore and like so many not trained to cope, they got caught in the riptide currents that grab your body mass and pull you out to sea.

As several lifeguards taught inquisitive guests about riptides nearby in the Moorhouse Lifeguard Headquarters, a lifeguard entered the water near the Huntington Beach Pier to help the young swimmers who began showing signs of panic. The rescue ended successfully as a lifeguard towed two boarders from his buoy and rope tether. He swam against a strong current and with a few minutes, had the boys safely back to shore.

California lifeguards rank among the best in the U.S. Difficult conditions, millions of swimmers and tourists with no previous exposure to the ocean currents all create a situation requiring up to hundreds of rescues on a busy summer weekend.  While things happen unexpectedly and each of us can panic as we encounter situations we simply aren't skilled enough to cope with, there are some basics to help you.

The basics are simple: Never go into the water alone. Use a buddy system. Beyond that, check for current water conditions, swim near "manned" lifeguard stations and have the skills appropriate to your water entry.

Rip currents: A rip current normally can be seen as choppy, brown water offshore. It can be felt as a strong tug away from the shore, rather than toward it as you would expect when riding a wave.  To escape a riptide, don't struggle to swim within in it. Aim yourself and body at an angle usually perpendicular to shore, and you'll usually find your escape route in a side current that allows escape from this challenging condition.

Sleeper waves: Any place, but especially northern California, is subject to sleeper waves that suddenly appear and hit shore with great strength.  As a result, people have drowned, not seeing them come.  It is advised that never turn your back to the ocean as you stand next to it on shore.

Huntington Beach Marine Safety Division: Location: 103 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA

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