Swimming At Southern California Beaches - How To Avoid Twelve Hazards

by Pool Builders on 03-01-2008 in Articles

Generally, going to the beach in Southern California is a relatively safe activity. There's sand, there's water, there's seagulls. Maybe a few rocks. What could go wrong?

Whether you're a seasoned local or planning your first beach vacation, there are some common potential dangers to watch out for, as well as ones you may not have considered.

Swimming in the surf is one of the most fun things to do in the universe, and Southern California has some of the best beaches to do it at. If you're prepared, you'll likely avoid any bad experience. Just remember, try to stick to beaches with lifeguards (easier to find in summer), because they are your best friends at the beach. When you arrive at a beach, just ask him or her if there are any particular hazards to watch out for that day.

1. Riptides. Don't panic! Stay calm, wave an arm, gradually and steadily move parallel to the shore until you are out of it.

2. Polluted Water. Check signs. Check with the lifeguard. Stay away from storm drains and river mouths. Don't swim right after a storm, when bacterial levels generally rise. Check healthebay.org for recent sewage spills on local Southern California beaches.

3. Swimmer's Fatigue. Swim with a buddy. Don't drink alcohol. Don't push yourself just because you're having a blast. Swim in front of a lifeguard. Monitor the waves before you go in. Note the size of the waves and the time lapse between them. Check how strong the current is and don't try and swim against it.

4. Rising Tides and Surprise Waves. Be aware of the changing tide level and allow extra distance for surprise waves. When exploring tide pools, keep an eye on the waves and don't venture out too far. Don't let your toddlers play by the shore's edge unattended.

5. Drop Offs. Before going in, watch other swimmers and waders and note if there is a different depth in certain spots between sand shelves. If you are a non- swimmer, be aware that shallow water may suddenly become deep, as not all beaches have a gradual slope.

6. Wayward Surfboards. Swim somewhere where there aren't surfers close by. Use a leash if you are the one surfing.

7. Shore Breaks. Bodysurfing a wave that breaks right on shore is not recommended, but whenever or wherever you are bodysurfing, keep a hand out in front of you to protect your head and neck from hitting the bottom.

8. Jellyfish. Swim away, preferably upcurrent. Alert the lifeguard. If you are stung, rinse with salt water and seek medical attention. The jellyfish found in Southern California waters are generally not as dangerous as those found in Florida or Australia.

9. Stingrays and Round Rays. These flat fish sometimes lurk in the sand and will sting you if stepped on. Seal Beach has had the most occurrences. Shuffle your feet through the sand as you walk through the water to scare them off. If stung, rinse it, remove the stinger, apply pressure to stop bleeding, soak in hot water and seek medical attention.

10. Sharks. Attacks are rare, but to lessen your chances of encountering one, swim close to others, as you are safer in a group. Don't swim with an open wound. Avoid murky waters or areas where sea birds are diving, indicating a ripe feeding area. Avoid swimming at dusk or at night. Try not to splash around too much and don't wear highly contrasting colors, as these attract sharks' attention. If you see one, sprint to shore.

11. Submerged Rocks and Storm Drains. Check with the lifeguard. Check the signs. Be aware that high tide may conceal underwater hazards.

12. Unreliable Flotation Devices. Don't rely on just a boogie board or other floaty if you are a nonswimmer. It can easily get out of your grasp. Only coast guard approved PFD's can be trusted to keep you afloat.

Remember, always respect the power of the ocean and never underestimate it. Keep an eye on your kids and have a fun, safe and memorable beach vacation.

Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be general, helpful advice based on experience and research, but the author cannot be held liable for any injury or accident which may occur to any reader.

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