A Guide to Basic Beach Safety

A birds-eye view of the seashore.

For most of us, time at the beach is a form of escapism. Our usual daily pressures are exchanged for the uplifting environment of the coast, and it is no wonder why we are drawn to the beach.

Here at Wetsuit Centre, we want everyone to enjoy the beach as safely as possible. We have compiled an essential list of tips that anyone going to the beach should know for their wellbeing.

Going to the Beach During The UK Lockdown

With recent lockdown measures slightly reduced, it is not surprising that for some families, heading to their local coast is high on their agenda.

With no one to patrol the beaches in the current situation of lockdown throughout the UK, the RNLI has been very clear when recommending safety tips which should be followed on any visits to unpatrolled beaches.

This article will advise on general guidelines about the beach, health and safety measures put in place by lifeguards and the precautions you should take when visiting a beach without lifeguards, as you may find during the lockdown.

Remember to always check for any signs regarding beach safety when entering the beach!

Lifeguards looking at the sea from their lifeguard vehicle.

The Importance of Lifeguards

In typical circumstances, choose beaches that are lifeguarded where you can, especially if you are relatively new to a watersport, such as surfing. If you want to try a new sport, do not begin learning on a beach that does not have lifeguards.

Do Not Try New Water Sports During Lockdown

Therefore, it is especially important to follow this guideline during lockdown; do not attempt a new watersport with no lifeguards available.

New Surfers Can Pose A Threat to Others

Not only is it dangerous to start a new watersport if you come into risk yourself, but it can also be hazardous for surrounding people. New surfers, for example, can pose a threat if they don’t know how to keep their board close to them or how to avoid other surfers safely.

Respecting Our Emergency Services During Lockdown

Finally, given the current circumstances and strain on the UK’s emergency services, we want to protect them as best as we can during this uncertain time. Therefore, regulations such as not trying a new watersport while beaches are unpatrolled should be respected for everyone’s welfare.

RNLI jet ski on the beach.

Who To Call If You’re In Trouble

Whether you find yourself in danger in the water yourself or witness someone else at risk; please read below on the actions to take in an emergency.

Hand Signals

If you are in the water while a beach is lifeguarded, you should learn how to signal for help. It could be to rescue you, or someone near you in an emergency.

To do this, simply raise one hand above your head. Keep your hand straight up in a fist shape or clearly wave towards the lifeguard. This is an international hand signal for those who are in distress when in the water.

Do not let go of your float, such as a surfboard or bodyboard. Remain with it, so you have something to hold onto while you wait for the lifeguard to respond.

Know the Emergency Number for the Coastguard

Knowing the emergency number for the coastguard is especially vital during lockdown when lifeguards are not patrolling the beaches. 

If you see someone in distress in the water and the lifeguard or coast guard are not on the beach, you should ring 999 and request the coastguard for an emergency.

Tides

Before you head onto the beach, make sure you know the tide times. It is especially important because some entrances and exits to specific beaches can be cut off by high tides. Try to research this as much as possible to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Rip Currents

Knowing about rip currents is important when taking part in any watersports, especially if you are planning to swim in the sea.

Why Beginners Lessons in Watersports Are Important

If you are new to a watersport, it is thoroughly advised to complete a beginner’s lesson. Not only will it introduce and teach you about the sports equipment including boards and wetsuits, but it will also supply you with an overview about health and safety, including the risks of rip currents and what you should do if you find yourself in one.

General Guidance About Rip Currents

If you think a rip current is pulling you, try to paddle or swim parallel to the beach instead of directly back to shore. By doing this, it is easier to swim sideways out of the rip current, compared to directly through it, reducing energy. Furthermore, if you can stand up in the water, try to wade over swimming.

Inflatables in a pool.

Leave the Inflatables In the Pool!

The RNLI do not encourage the use of any inflatable in the sea. Regardless of if the beach is lifeguarded or not. Inflatables can easily be carried away from shore through rip currents and offshore winds.

Inflatables can be very hazardous and should not be used in the sea, especially during the lockdown.

Children

If going to the beach as a family, it is essential to look out for one another, especially if with children. If adventuring on the beach, stick together, particularly during the lockdown.

Choose a Location to Meet If Separated

Decide on a meeting point for you and the children to meet should you, unfortunately, get separated while on the beach.

RNLI Child Safety Scheme

Some RNLI lifeguarded beaches may supply wristbands where you can write your contact details if a child becomes lost.

Sunset behind the sea.

Keep an Eye On the Weather

At times, weather can be temperamental and ever-changing. Having a definite prediction of the weather can be near impossible. However, try to stay connected with the weather as much as you can.

For example, if a storm is due that day, heading into the water would not be a safe idea.

Ensure You Have Adequate Sun Protection

Furthermore, on hot and sunny days, sun protection is essential and should be high on your list of priorities. Make sure you have applied waterproof sun cream when going in the water.

More and more people are being diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK every year, so make sure you have taken all the adequate precautions.

Know What the Flags Mean

Please read below for a description of the colours of the beach flags and what they mean

Red and Yellow Flags:

In between the red and yellow flags is the area dedicated to swimmers, bodyboards and, where required, inflatables. It is selected and overlooked by the beach lifeguards and is, therefore, the safest place to swim on the beach.

Black and White Chequered Flags:

In between the black and white chequered flags is the designated area for boardsports. These include surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking as well as ‘other non-powered craft’.

Swimmers and bodyboarders are not permitted in this area.

Kite and windsurfers can enter and exit here.

Orange Tube Flags:

These flags mean that offshore and prevalent winds are dominating the beach. Consequently, inflatables should never be used while these flags are up.

Completely Red Flags:

No one must enter the water when these flags are flying. It means there is significant danger and is not safe for anyone in the sea.

Beach flags During Lockdown

Of course, with the lifeguards currently not on duty, this point may seem presently irrelevant. However, when lifeguard patrols eventually return, it is essential information to keep in mind for future trips to the beach.

A Quick Beach Safety Summary For Lockdown

Below is an overview of Covid-19 specified advice when visiting the beach concerning general water and beach safety.

• Ring 999 for the coastguard in an emergency.
• Be aware of tides and rip currents local to the beach.
• Check for and read any safety signs before going to the beach.
• Do not try a new watersport during the lockdown.
• Do not use inflatables.
• Go to the beach with a member of your household and not on your own.
• Stick together when on the beach with people from your household.

Hopefully, you feel prepared for a fun day at the beach! Are you impressed by the work of the RNLI on UK beaches? Why not share your thoughts with us on our social media channels? We would love to hear from you!

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