Growing up, my typical summer day went like this..Wake up in a house full of cousins. Load up a station wagon with beach chairs, boogie boards, a gazillion buckets and shovels, towels and bags. Hit the beach around 9 am and stay until lunchtime (which was also strategically timed to coincide with “As the World Turns.”) When the grownups were done with their soap, we’d head back to the beach (all the while never wearing a drop of sunscreen – at least until I was 15) and stay until the lifeguards pulled the flags down (at least 5 or 6 pm). We’d arrive back home, clean up in the outside showers (the kids were never allowed to shower inside!), and then sit down (usually) to a fresh flounder feast (caught by my grandfather and cooked by my grandmother). We’d crash for the night amid all the bunk beds and shared bedrooms. The next morning we’d do it all over again.
That was my summer life for years and years, yet it amazes me that – among the hustle and bustle of my cousins, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents – we never had a crazy beach accident. Most everyone knows the basics of beach safety, but every so often you hear of an incident and think, “I never thought something like that could have happened.”
So in the spirit of safety and easy, breezy beach trips, I gathered a quick list of things you might not normally think about. If you have more tips to share, please add them as comments at the end of this post!
1. Don’t Blow It. Leave the inflatables at home. “Swimmies,” tubes and floats might be fun and safe in the pool, but it’s a whole ‘nother story in breaking waves. Instead of helping weaker swimmers, they only create more danger for them.
2. Stay “Current.” Check the tides before you head to the beach, and know whether or not the tides are coming or going (especially if you have little ones). When the ocean is getting high, sometimes a big “drop” occurs just as you’re entering the water without realizing it’s there. The water level could quickly go from ankle-deep to over the head of a young child. Also refresh yourself – and your kids – on the differences between undertows, rip tides, or an eddy (my grandmother actually got caught in one of these in the Atlantic Ocean!).
3. No Man is an Island. Lots of times you’ll see sandbars appear out in the ocean and people will swim out to them. If you’re a strong swimmer, usually it’s OK to do this. But the depth of the water and length of the swim can be misleading. Not to mention, all kinds of currents can be caught in the waters leading up to the sandbars. See #2 above.
4. Don’t Dig Deep. Everyone loves to dig holes in the sand, but be wary of digging holes in the loose sand (near the entrance of the beach), or tunnels and holes deep enough for kids to climb into. It seems like common sense, but tragedies with sand tunnels occur more often than you think..in fact, this one happened just last week not far from where I spent my summers growing up.
5. Never Dive Right In. While preparing this post, my mom reminded me of an accident that happened on our beach when I was little. A man came running down the dunes and dove head-first into the waves. Despite what looked like deep water with the crashing waves, it was extremely shallow and he suffered a neck injury. Take the same precautions you would with a pool: never dive into the ocean unless you know the depth is at least 10 feet or deeper.
6. If It’s Red, It Sheds (and Stings!). It amazes me when I see parents letting their children touch, poke and play with jellyfish that wash up on the shore. It’s never a good idea, especially if they have red tentacles or any kind of red tint. That red stuff stings – and breaks off in the water (which can still sting you!) – so steer clear of the red variety. In contrast, the clear jellyfish are OK – you can mush and smush them all you like without being stung. But to be safe, don’t try.
7. Don’t Leash Up. Surfing is a great sport, but if your child has never tried it, take this one precaution despite what the surfing instructor may tell you: don’t attach the leash to your child’s ankle. The leash is meant to tether the board to you so you can’t lose it after crashing in a wave. However, in many instances where the leash is attached to your ankle, it can come back and hit you in the head. The instructor may tell you to dive deep when you fall, but you can’t always control that. Instead, let the board be lost. You know you will eventually find it. (This rule doesn’t apply to boogie boards – they are lightweight).
8. Here’s to the Beach Babes. Having an infant or “crawler” with you at the beach can result in a lot of stress for mom and dad, and tears for the baby. To keep things fun for parents and child alike, try these tips: 1) Bring along a baby pool for your child to sit in on the beach. So easy to carry, so easy to set up, and your child will have a ball while all the bigger kids get to enjoy the ocean. 2) And/or bring along a bumbo chair. It’s also lightweight and made of the perfect material to withstand salt water and sand. You can set it up close to the edge of the ocean and let the water run over your baby while he sits upright in a sturdy position (make sure you are close by, of course, in case a big wave comes!). Both provide loads of fun!
Let us know if you have other beach safety tips – the kind of advice you normally don’t think of – that you can share from your recent beach trip!