Beach Safety – All you Need to Know

Beach Safety Advice

Summer is in full swing here in Polzeath following our first bout of hot weather. As you grab your buckets and spades and sprint to the seaside, take a moment to make sure you refresh your beach safety knowledge and that you family know how to stay safe on the beach and in the sea this summer.

General Advice

  • Visit an RNLI lifeguarded beach wherever possible.
  • Know your weather forecast.
  • If your unsure about anything just ask! Locals and lifeguards are the best source of information.
  • Pack the essentials as a minimum – Water, Sunscreen, Hat, Spare Clothes, Watch.

Tide Safety

Tide times and heights vary throughout the month, and they can easily catch you out if you haven’t checked them. Avoid getting trapped by:

  • Exploring while the tide is going out (you can check the local tide times here).
  • Making sure you know where all the exits are on the beach.
  • Telling someone where you are going (and avoid going out by yourself if possible).
  • Keeping an eye on the direction in which the tide is heading – and don’t assume you’ll be able to avoid an incoming tide by walking further along the beach!
  • It is also good to know the height of swell and its forecast, as well as wind direction, as this can affect tide heights.

Beach flags

The must know for beach safety. Know your beach flags before you set foot in the water! Here are the commonly seen flags on Cornwall’s beaches:

  • Bathing flag – On a lifeguarded beach you should always swim between the red and yellow flags. This is also the safest place for bodyboarding and using inflatables (although inflatables are never recommended in Cornwall).
  • Surfing flag – Chequered black and white flags mean that an area has been marked for use by surfing craft (including surfboards, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, kitesurfs, windsurfs, and other non-powered craft). Don’t swim or bodyboard in this area.
  • Danger flag – If you see a bright red flag, it’s not safe to enter the water.
  • Orange windsock – An orange windsock indicates strong wind conditions – avoid using inflatables while the windsock is flying.

Rip Currents

Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water. They tend to flow at 1–2mph but can reach 4–5mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer. Rips are especially powerful in larger surf, but never underestimate the power of any water. They are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.

How to spot and avoid a rip current:

Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface. Even the most experienced beachgoers can be caught out by rips, so don’t be afraid to ask lifeguards for advice. They will show you how you can identify and avoid rips.

The best way to avoid rips is to choose an RNLI lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which have been marked based on where is safer to swim in the current conditions. This also helps you to be spotted more easily, should something go wrong. DO NOT always assume an area of calm looking water is the safest – often rips form in deeper channels of water where waves are not breaking due to the depth of the water.

If you do find yourself caught in a rip:

  • Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.
  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim.
  • If you can, swim parallel to the shore towards breaking waves or until free of the rip and then head for shore.
  • Always raise your hand and shout for help.

If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Sun safety

“Don’t be silly, we’re in England, we don’t need factor 30″? – As all sensible visitors to Cornwall are aware, sunburn doesn’t just happen on foreign holidays, and you can burn in the UK even when it’s cloudy. Before you get to the beach:

  • Get your vitamin D, but maybe during the hottest hours of the day take a break from the sun and bring a large brimmed hat.
  • Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and four-star UVA protection.
  • Keep children aged under six months out of direct strong sunlight and make sure everyone stays in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
  • Make sure you reapply sunscreen after you’ve been in the water, even if you are using a ‘water resistant’ brand.
  • Drink plenty of water. Hours in the sun can have a massive impact on your hydration levels and regular water intake is a must!

Looking for somewhere to stay in Cornwall? The Point at Polzeath provides an excellent variety of self-catering accommodation for families and groups and is within a short drive of some of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches. To book your next trip, contact us today.

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