Ocean Safety Tips:
Swim Near a Lifeguard: USLA statistics over a ten year period have shown that the change of drowning is almost five times as great at beaches without a lifeguard than at a beach with lifeguards on duty.
Learn to Swim: Learning to swim well is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age, since children who are not taught while very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they get older. Proper swimming instruction is a crucial step to protecting children from injury or death.
Never Swim Alone: Even skilled swimmers can find themselves at risk for injury in the ocean, and many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, you are ensure that if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. If you are not swimming with a partner, at least have someone onshore watching you from the shore.
Don't Fight the Current: Approximately 80% of rescues at oceans are caused by rip currents. These currents are formed by surf and gravity, since once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of wate moving offshore. While some mistakenly call this phenomenon an undertow, it's different from undertow, as there is no actual current, just an offshore one. If you do get caught in a rip current, do NOT fight against it, trying to swim directly to shore. While it might seem the fastest route, even the better swimmers can tire and cramp while trying to push against the current in that way. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow, and a short swim parallel to shore will soon bring you to safety.
Swim Sober: Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. It can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability and general motor skills, as well as impair good judgement. Those under the influence of alcohol are far more likely to take risks they would not otherwise take.
Leash your Board: Surfboards and bodyboards should be used only with a leash, attached to the board and the ankle (or wrist). They are available in most shops where surf and body boards are sold or rented. With a leash, the user will not become separated from their flotation device. Another consideration is a breakaway leash. Some drownings have occured when leashes become entangled in underwater obstructions. Leashes that break away when entangled can avoid this problem.
Don't Float Where you Can't Swim: Non-swimmers often use flotation devices like innertubes or inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they could quickly drown. No one should use these flotation devices to go over their head without knowing how to swim. The same goes for those using surf or body boards, even with leashes, as non-swimmers may panic and be unable to swim back to the board even with the leash attached.
Life Jackets: Some 80% of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water, but fell overboard or sank when the boat sank. Children are particularly susceptible to this problem, and in many states (including California) youths under the age of 18 are required to be in lifejackets whenever they are aboard boats. Coast Guard approved life jackets are highly recommended for both children and adults, when boating any distance into the ocean.
**Information received from the U.S. Lifeguards Association website.
For more information on ocean safety and rip currents, visit the NOAA's National Weather Service at www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov, or the United States Lifeguards Association at www.usla.org.