How to "read" the beach for ocean safety -

Safety tips for a beach trip

Big waves could mean big trouble! You're at the beach, swimming, walking, relaxing.... but things can change in a split second depending on conditions.

"It can change from day to day it can change from hour to hour," says Ocean Safety Captain Kevin Allen.

From dangerous shore breaks to sharp reef and rocks, shallow water and rip currents, there are many dangers to be aware of at the beach.

"When you come to a new beach, watch it for about five or 10 minutes," Allen advises. "Take time to see where you're going to go in and get out before you do it. Know your limitations. If it looks dangerous, it probably is dangerous."

Lifeguards are at the beach to help you. Talk to them, read all posted warning signs and always be cautious.

Ocean Safety Lifeguard Aka Tamashiro knows first-hand: "What we constantly stress with parents is keep your kids within arm's reach at all times when they're anywhere near the ocean. It only takes a couple seconds for a toddler or infant to get swept into the shore break where they're about to get a mouthful of water in their small lungs and from there a pleasant day can go really bad, really quick."

Rip currents are also common at beach breaks.

"All the water and energy coming into the beach has to get back out. You'll see the top of the water starts getting a little rough and you can actually see the water moving out," says Allen. "If you get caught in one, it could carry you for yards out to sea. Don't panic; ride it out or swim perpendicular to the current, not against it. Stay calm, look around, see if there's anybody else in your immediate vicinity that might be able to help you out. Throw a hand up and yell for the lifeguard. Make yourself visible and lifeguards will be on the way."

You'll want to be careful even just walking along the shore.

"As the waves come in, they come in in sets and usually you get the lulls in between and the lulls can last anywhere from a minute to 10 minutes to 15 minutes," says Kevin. "Just when you think the coast is clear, your quest to get that perfect picture can turn into a public service announcement on what not to do."

And if you remember one thing, remember this: If in doubt, don't go out.

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