I think it is safe to say that we are all ready to let those sunny vibes flow. It seems everyone associates the beach with relaxation and fun and we want everyone to enjoy their time at the beach and stay safe while exploring their adventures.
With the help of Ocean City Today and our weekly series on Beach and Ocean Safety, you too can be sure to keep your beach trips as safe as they can be. No matter where you’re headed, we’ve rounded up eight major safety tips to help you keep safe at the beach.
* Only swim when a lifeguard is on duty.
We are dedicated to guarding and maintaining safety along Ocean City’s beach seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., starting the Saturday of Memorial day weekend and concluding on Sunday, Sept. 25.
With that being said, let me remind you of one of our most important messages: “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard is in the stand!”
The ocean is unpredictable, and statistics show that most of the drownings in the world occur during a time when beaches are unguarded.
In Ocean City, over 95 percent of all drownings that have occurred in the near 90 years of the Beach Patrol, have occurred when guards were not on duty.
* Talk with the lifeguard.
We also encourage you to touch base with the lifeguard each time you visit the beach to learn about present conditions.
Each day, the guards write a beach or ocean tip on the sign on the back of their stand. Be aware that ocean currents will naturally push you along the shore, so make note of where you are when you enter the water.
Locate a stationary landmark like the lifeguard’s stand or a particular condo or building on shore. Take notice of which way the current is moving. Return to that spot in the water regularly so you’re never far from a lifeguard.
Parents also have had moments of panic when suddenly their child is no longer where they last saw them, only to see them running back from a block down the beach, due to lateral ocean current.
* Watch for rip currents.
Waves don’t always break evenly along the shore and when this occurs, when they break more strongly in some areas than others — it can cause a circulation in the water that produces a rip current.
Rips are the number one hazard for swimmers and can pull even the strongest ones out to sea.
Here are the tell-tail signs of a rip current: choppy, turbulent surface water, off-colored water (often lighter) extending from the shore, and the interruption of wave action towards the shore.
If you find yourself in these waters, stay calm, save your energy (let the water current carry you for a while), and keep breathing.
Don’t try to swim against the current! Gain your composure and start swimming parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current. Then turn and swim diagonally toward the shore.
If you can’t make it to the shore, wave your arms and make noise so someone can see or hear you and get help. The best advice, again, is to check in with the lifeguard. They can tell you the best place to swim and they have an informative picture for how to spot rip-currents on the back of their stand.
Remember, if the Beach Patrol is off duty and you get in trouble there is no one to save your life so do not go into the water! In 2021 Rip Currents were the second leading cause of weather-related death in the U.S., don’t add to that statistic!
* Be aware of the waves.
Waves are so much more powerful than you might think. We have found that injuries resulting from strong waves can range from simple sprains, broken collarbones and dislocated shoulders to more serious injuries including blunt organ trauma and spinal injuries (which can lead to paralysis).
Another wave action to be aware of is the phenomena called shore break, or waves that break directly on shore (rather than breaking a few yards out and rolling in more slowly).
These waves have the potential to cause serious neck and spinal injuries. A good practice to incorporate when exiting the ocean is to never put your back to the waves (letting large waves impact your back can result in the same type of injury as a rear end auto collision).
Just be sure to check in with the SRT before hitting the surf to ask about the wave conditions for the day. Your lifeguard is more than happy to point out shore break and let you know when and where there might be a safer place to swim.
* Sand holes can be dangerous.
People love to dig holes at the beach, but it can be dangerous if they cave in.
Deep holes can collapse on the people digging them. Once a person is buried in sand, it is very difficult for them to breathe and to dig them out.
Even a small hole can trap a small person just as a person can drown in a small amount of water. The rule enforced by the Beach Patrol is that holes may only be as deep as the knee of the smallest person in the group. Lifeguards enforce the knee-deep policy for your safety. Unfortunately, this exact hazard took the life of a child in New Jersey just two weeks ago.
* Stay sober.
Alcohol doesn’t only affect judgment; it can also dehydrate you, increasing the likelihood of heat-related sicknesses.
The beach may seem like a great place to relax and enjoy alcoholic beverages; however, it is both illegal and unsafe to do so.
The combination of alcohol’s effects on dehydration and disorientation resulting in impaired judgment supports the rationale on why Ocean City does not allow alcohol on its beaches.
Alcohol depletes your body of the vital fluids it needs to keep you up and running throughout the day, and it can also give swimmers a false sense of confidence when it comes to ocean swimming.
Almost every guard has a story about rescuing a swimmer who drank too much alcohol. A person who has a healthy understanding of the ocean and their own swimming ability might not usually head out very far, but after a few drinks, they might find themselves feeling braver.
They take risks they usually would not and can end up hurting themselves in any number of ways. There have been a number of late night drownings over the years, where intoxication was cause.
We know it’s tempting to enjoy a few refreshments while soaking in the sun, but if you’re going to partake, make sure you are obeying the law, staying off the beach, and steer clear of the surf. Please hydrate properly.
* Save your skin.
Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma (skin cancer) later in life.
Racking up more than five sunburns at any age also doubles the risk for melanoma. Keep the burns at bay by slathering on a high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30SPF or higher (our guards use Panama Jack for sun protection).
Make sure you have a source of shade like hats, umbrellas, tents that are readily available (especially during the sun’s peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m).
Remember, if you are using an umbrella for shade, you are responsible for its safe use and never leave it unattended if you leave the beach.
Always keep an eye on wind direction and changes in weather to make sure your umbrella is secure.
Your eyes can also be damaged by exposure to the suns UV rays so never forget to wear a pair of high-quality sunglasses.
Lifeguards wear polarized glasses to help cut down the glare off the water and so they can see you better. Thanks to a sponsorship from HOOK Optics each SRT will be fitted and provided a quality pair of sunglasses that not only will protect their eyes, but will also give them cleared vision as they watch over you and your family.
* What to bring and not to bring to the beach.
Always bring any medications that you might need in an emergency (epi pen, appropriate snack for diabetics, heart medication, etc.). Also bring plenty of water because once you sense the sensation of being thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated.
Don’t forget to wear footwear because on a hot day, the sand can cause very serious burns on the bottom of your feet just by crossing the beach to your towel.
Never bring valuables to the beach. Leave them at home, in your condo, or in your car and always have an extra set of keys with you.
Keep the above tips on hand and in mind. Have an action plan before hitting the waves.
Even if you’re heading to the pool or lake instead of the ocean, head our warnings — many of the tips apply to hanging out near any body of water.
We’ll never know how many lives will be saved by the lifeguards’ vigilance. But you can help and do your part by heeding our safety advice each week and sharing the information with others.
You are strongly encouraged to check in with the lifeguard each time you visit to learn about present weather and water conditions. Each day, we write a beach or ocean tip on the back of our stands.
Let the summer adventures begin in Ocean City and always remember to “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s in the stand!”
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Beach Patrol employee, ask any of our Surf Rescue Technicians or visit our website at www.JoinBeachPatrol.com. We are still hiring for this summer and looking for our next lifeguards for next summer.
We have a test scheduled for Saturday, June 4 and June 11. There is no previous experience of certification required. All we ask is that you have a heart for helping others, can swim and run and are willing to learn.
We will pay you $17.75 hr. while we train and certify you in our Surf Rescue Training Academy. Stay Safe and enjoy the beach!