At the Beach, Tips 'n Tricks — February 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

5 Times You Should Stay Out of the Water

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The ocean is both calming and exciting, offering up thrilling waves for surfing and delicious food for eating, but it can also be deceptive. There are hidden dangers under the deep blue sea, and it demands respect.

Rip Tides
There is nothing more dangerous than attempting to swim or surf in hazardous rip currents, and if you do, well, you only have yourself to blame. If you’re lucky enough to be saved by a life guard, don’t expect them to be thrilled, since people who think they’re tougher than the ocean account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards. These tides are mighty, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that will quickly pull swimmers out to sea. Rip currents typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. The best way to stay alive is to not go into the water when there are rip currents. If caught in one, don’t fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle. Always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards—and don’t ignore the warnings.

Red Tides
Red tides are thick inhabitants or “blooms” of algae that form in coastal waters. A small percentage of these blooms can be toxic to marine animals and humans. People can get sick by swimming directly in the water and by eating contaminated shellfish. If a large number of these toxins are ingested, the results can be fatal. Scientists often predict the timing and location of blooms which allows public health officials to make decisions regarding beach closures to ensure the health of swimmers. Seriously, don’t go out, these things are gross. Although they can be pretty beautiful when viewed at night from the safety of shore.

Lightning
Since 2006, more than 50 people have been killed by lightning in the United States and in 2015, 18 people died due to lightning strikes. There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. This is not the time to hop on a jet ski or a Boogie board. Rain shelters, small sheds, and convertibles are not safe, so don’t expect to shelter under a palapa while waiting it out. Wait 30 minutes in a well-protected indoor shelter after the last thunder crack before going back to the beach, or just wait until the next day to be safe.

Poor Water Quality
Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Plastics, metals, rubber, paper and textiles are dumped into the ocean every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways. Let’s not forget about untreated sewage from boats, pets, broken septic systems, and spills from hazardous waste. You don’t need to surf so bad that you’re willing to risk gastrointestinal illness from swimming in polluted waters, right? Pay attention to all beach closures and advisories, because it’s just not worth the risk.

Shark Warnings
In 2016 there were a record number of shark attacks and bites (107) which surpassed the previous record of 98 set in 2015. The number is still minuscule given how many people hit the water each year, but you need to remain aware.

Attacks are most likely to occur near shore, usually near a sandbar near steep drop-offs where sharks’ prey gathers, and sharks can become trapped by low tide. To reduce your risk don’t swim too far from shore, stay in groups, avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight, and don’t go in the water if you have an open sore. When in doubt, don’t go out. And remember: the sharks live in these waters. You’re just a visitor. So for your sake and the sharks’ be careful and respectful.

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