Common Beach Hazards – How to identify and avoid them

Going to the ocean is a fun prospect, but there are several beach hazards you should prepare for before you head out from weather and water conditions to pollution and passing watercraft. By taking simple precautions, you can minimize the danger. Now the team of SeaSpiration explains what factors you need to pay attention to.

Weather conditions

Getting your weather forecast before loading up to go to the beach is just common sense. If the weather is going to be erratic, either be sure to pack for every weather condition or reschedule your trip for a better day.

Lightning at the beach

Windy conditions can be especially hazardous for surfing and windsurfing by whipping up waves you cannot handle. Lightening is also very dangerous and should always be avoided if possible. Lightning can strike unexpectedly, with no clouds around (hence the phrase “a bolt out of the blue”).

Wind on the sand can generate static electricity, and since it follows like attracts like, lightning loves to show up where there is static electricity. Pay attention to these factors when planning to hit the beach and also consider installing a weather forecast app on your mobile so you can get the latest alerts.

Waves and Currents

When going to the beach, you will need to know if there are any current risks you need to be aware of. If you are planning on swimming, you would be well advised to stay in the presence of lifeguards. They know if there are any shore breaks, rip currents or other beach hazards that you need to know about.

Waves and currents

Shore break waves occur when there is a sudden drop-off of the ocean floor. The force of these waves hit just like a wave hitting a cliff and can pin a swimmer underwater. These waves can cause otherwise competent swimmers to drown in shallow water.

A rip current is where water that has come up onto the beach goes back out. It usually finds a deeper channel to return to the ocean, and this channel can be moving fast enough to catch you up and pull you down if you are not expecting it. If you don’t know how to recognize one ask a lifeguard before you head out, she or he will explain what to do to stay safe at the beach.

Marine Life

Marine life often poses dangers. Getting stung by a jellyfish or stepping on a sea urchin cause local reactions and pain. Always look around when in the water, wear swimming goggles or a snorkeling mask so you can see underwater, and wear aqua shoes when walking in the sand and shallow water.

Jellyfish in the sea with long tentacles

One of the most reported dangers, of course, is shark activity. While it is not as common as portrayed on the big screen, the presence of sharks should be noted. Stay in areas where there are lifeguards since they are usually seated on chairs high enough to see incoming danger far sooner than you will and notify beachgoers if necessary.

Such beach hazards are signaled with beach warning flags, so always look for these!

Water Pollution

Marine debris, that can consist of plastic, seaweed, and other items that get washed up onshore and can cause injuries at the beach. Red tide is a natural phenomenon that occurs when algae bloom and since it causes a depletion of oxygen and can transport toxins, it can cause illness in humans and animals and therefore red tide is among the most common pollution-related dangers at the beach.

Marine debris washed up on the shore

Water contaminated by sewage or storm water pollution after heavy rainfall poses a risk too. These hazards belong to the main risks at the beach so the best is to avoid swimming if there is a risk for water pollution.

Watercraft

Watercraft pose their own risk, both to people in the water and on the watercraft itself. Motorized crafts are supposed to stay out of swim zones, but there is always that one person who cannot obey the rules, therefore always pay attention to boats, jet skis, and other watercraft even if you are in a designated swimmers-only area.

Two boys on jet skis

If you are on the board and go down due to a strong gust or lose your balance, you can become trapped under your sail. As water pours onto the sail, it becomes impossible to lift the sail off of yourself. A good rule to use is the buddy system. Even if your buddy can not get the sail off of you, he can signal for help.

Sun and heat

When discussing beach hazards, we cannot overlook the dangers of the sun and heat. Everyone has heard by now that exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. This can be avoided by applying high SPF suntan lotion. Remember that you have to reapply every 2 hours or after each dip in the water. If you don’t like using sunscreen, cover your body with UV protective clothing.

Not only sunburn is the only danger at the beach that can you can get from the sun, you need to learn how to avoid heatstroke and heat exhaustion too. Heat exhaustion occurs when you can no longer cool yourself, and you become light-headed. If this happens, get out of the sun and drink cool water. You do not want to drink cold water because it will shock your body and give you some painful stomach cramps.

Heatstroke is much more dangerous and is the result of getting so hot that your core temperature rises to unsafe levels that you cannot control. Get out of the sun and get checked by a first responder who will advise what to do or arrange emergency treatment.

Structures in the water

Other risks at the beach include structures in the water that can cause you injury if a wave knocks you into it. Jetties are structures placed in the water to break up incoming waves and protect harbors. These structures may be visible at low tide. It is possible to accidentally get caught on the wrong side of one when the tide comes in. Should that happen, you could become pinned and likely drown.

Pier in the ocean

Docks’ stakes can get debris stuck against them, so it is wise to be careful where you are swimming or boating as this debris can tangle your legs, paddles, or props. Also, submerged driftwood can snag your foot if you are not aware of it.

With all of this information, you should be able to have a safe, fun time at the beach!

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How to stay safe at the beach

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