Summer has finally arrived in Perth.
So it’s time to provide you with the second part of our beach safety tips.
A few weeks ago we talked about personal surfing safety which involved everything around your own abilities and prevention.
This time we want to have a closer look at Surfing hazards.
According to the ASI surfing hazards consist of 7 keypoints.
1. Rips and currents
Rips and currents can be a major problem surfers and swimmers are confronted with when entering the ocean. A rip is defined as a body of water going out to sea. When the waves break on the shallow sandbanks they push water towards the beach. This water takes the way of the least resistance and flows back out to sea in the deeper part in between two sandbanks.
1.1. How to identify a rip
There are certain indicators to spot a rip
• Ripples on the surface of the water while the surrounding water is generally calm
• Darker water (rock bottom) or discoloured water due to sand being stirred up by the waves and getting transported out to sea with water in the rip (sand bottom)
• Everything else that moves out to sea – foam, driftwood etc.
• Breaking waves on either side of the rip while there is less or no breaking waves in the middle. This is the reason why unaware swimmers often pick a rip as a place to swim since it looks like a calm spot and therefor a good place to swim. But you could get carried out to sea further than you intended to go.
1.2. Getting out of rips
Depending on the ocean floor and the wave size a rip can carry you out just a few meters or a long way. The biggest issue swimmers and surfers face when caught in a rip is panicking and trying to swim against the current straight back to shore until they are so exhausted that the situation becomes life threatening.
A better behavior when caught in a rip include:
STAY CALM AND STAY ON YOUR BOARD
PADDLE ACROSS THE RIP INSTEAD OF AGAINST IT
Rips are not necessarily bad and can be a great help for advanced surfers in order to get out into the line-up, but only when you know how to deal with them.
• Stay clear of rips until you learn how to use them to your advantage
• Always check the beach for rips before entering the water
• On patrolled beaches check for signs identifying rips and stay away from it
• Ask locals or life guards if you are unsure if any rips are present
2. Marine creatures
Marine life is usually not a big danger in the scheme of things. Nevertheless there are a few creatures we should be aware of:
• Stingers/blue bottles
Have a transparent blue air sac floating on the surface and long tentacles. The sting is very painful and can be dangerous if you react allergic to stings. If you are stung remove the tentacle and apply and anti-stinging lotion. Check for signs of them on the beach.
Come in all sizes and most species don’t represent a threat to you. However be aware of shark alarms (siren). Stay calm and head for the shore if the alarm goes off or you spot a shark in the water.
• Sea snakes
Are highly venomous and if bitten, seek help immediately. They are generally found in tropical waters. In case you see one move away as quick and carefully as possible.
• Jelly fish
Are generally harmless. Nevertheless it’s best to avoid them since there are very few ones that can be dangerous.
• Sea lice
Are usually found in tropical waters and cannot be seen. However you will notice them by an itching sensation that can become irritating. Try not to scratch as it only makes things worse.
• Otters and seals
Are not dangerous but might get in your way while surfing. In general they are rather a good companion in the water.
Marine creatures vary depending on the season and location. So always keep checking and talk to locals or life guards when you are unsure.
Be aware of any rocks in the area you surf in, especially submerged/underwater rocks. At a beginner you should stay away from any rocks.
Signs for submerged rocks include swirling water on the surface and waves breaking when the surround water is calm.
Always check for signs warning of rocks and ask locals if you are unsure.
4. Other people and watercraft
Always be aware of other people and other watercraft around you when surfing.
Before you catch a wave make sure that nobody is in front of you or on the wave already surfing towards you. If you don’t check you could hurt yourself, them or both of you. Avoid these situations by always being aware of your position in relation to others in the water. If you are a beginner, stay away from busy spots and more advanced surfers.
5. Own surfboard
Watch out for your own surfboard when wiping out. Most injuries occur due to your own board. When you wipe out protect you head and keep your arms above your head when you are surfacing again. That way you are safe in case the board is located directly above you or it should spring back at you.
Big waves can be a hazard. Larger waves have a lot of power and can throw you around or hold you under water. Especially shore breaks, waves that break very close to the beach or even directly onto dry sand, can be a big danger. So always keep your eyes out to sea and never turn your back on the waves.
Be aware of any pollution in the water. There could be contaminated water from spillages and storm-water ocean outlets which might make you ill. In tropical regions there may be coconuts or other floating debris to avoid while other areas might have a lot of seaweed. It is always best to avoid surfing and swimming in polluted water.
The golden rule of Surfing safety
Never go surfing in water that you are unsure of or where the surf is larger than your ability.
Ask yourself: “would you still be able to swim in that surf and back to shore if your leg rope breaks and you lose your board?”
If you don’t think so, the best idea is not to go surfing until conditions are more suitable for you.
Stay safe on the beach and in the water so you can enjoy our beautiful beaches this summer!