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Staying Safe at the Beach - Ocean Safety Tips


Always swim near a lifeguard. Check the surf conditions with the lifeguard before entering the water and choose a beach that fits your comfort and skill level. Never feel embarrassed if you find yourself in trouble. Wave your hands above your head, a universal sign for help, and you will be assisted. You can also call a local number for the daily surf report: 949.673.3371


Rip Currents

Rip currents, or riptides as they are often called, are very misunderstood and for this reason, pose the highest potential threat to the average beach-goer. The United States Lifeguard Association (USLA) has found that some 80% of rescues by USLA affiliated lifeguards at ocean beaches are caused by rip currents.  These currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current.  If you find yourself vigorously swimming toward shore and making no headway, even backward progress, DO NOT PANIC!  Most rip currents are narrow and a short SWIM PARALLEL TO SHORE will bring you to safety.  And remember, never be afraid to ask for help. 


Observe all warning signs. Each year thousands of visitors are rescued by the Newport Beach lifeguards. Before entering the water, be sure to observe the color of the flag flying at the rear of the closest lifeguard tower. Each day, the lifeguard raises a colored flag based on his assessment of the surf conditions. The solid colored flag green represents light surf, yellow represents moderate surf, and red represents heavy or dangerous surf conditions.  

Due to the summer crowds, one more flag may be flying at the front of the lifeguard tower.  The Black Ball Flag, the yellow flag with the black dot in the center, means that hard board surfing is prohibited.  Talk to your lifeguard for more information on the Lifeguard Flag System.


Don’t Drink and Swim

Alcohol and swimming don’t mix. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Perhaps more importantly, both alcohol and drugs impair good judgement, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take. Newport Beach does not allow open containers on public property.

Supervise Your Children

When lifeguards are on duty, they are watching for potential problems, but they can’t see everything. Keep your children under a constant and watchful eye. The beach is a dynamic place, and can surprise waders who suddenly find themselves over their heads. Talk to your local

lifeguards for more safety tips and visit California Surf Life Saving AssociationNewport Beach Marine Department

Published on Tuesday, July 28, 2015