Thousands will flock to Southern California beaches this Memorial Day Weekend, prompting lifeguards to remind people to be safe, be smart and to plan ahead.
Beach and ocean safety, laws, sea animals and lost kids or parents rank among the top issues beach-goers and lifeguards face.
In terms of ocean safety, longtime San Diego lifeguard Sgt. Rick Strobel emphasized the importance of people knowing their limits when it comes to swimming in the ocean.
“I think I am a good swimmer, but compared to some of the best swimmers we have, I’m not as strong in the water,” Sgt. Strobel explained.
He said the most dangerous thing affecting swimmers in the ocean are riptides.
“People need to know how to spot and identify riptides.”
When a riptide is present, the water will be churning, discolored and waves will not be breaking. The best thing to do if caught in a riptide is to raise your arms to signal a lifeguard and swim parallel to shore out of the riptide.
“A riptide will not pull people under, it will pull someone away from the shore,” he said. “Panicking is the worst thing someone can do and can easily lead to drowning.”
Lost Kids and Parents:
Sgt. Strobel said officials deal with hundreds of lost parents or kids almost everyday.
“Plan ahead and pick obvious landmarks to meet at if a family member becomes lost,” he said. “Go to a lifeguard if you can’t find a missing family member. We are here to help.”
There is no drinking or smoking allowed at the beach and people who are found breaking the law will be ticketed.
“What people don’t understand is these laws don’t just apply to the sand,” Sgt. Strobel explained. “The law also applies to grassy parks around beaches, boardwalks and adjacent parking lots.”
Another important law that people often get tripped up on regards bringing dogs to the beach.
“In the summer, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.,” he said.
He added it can ruin someone’s day if they travel to the beach with a dog only to be asked to leave.
“You can’t stick your dog in a purse and walk on the boardwalk or leave your dog in the car in a parking lot or you will be cited.”
There are two beaches were dogs are allowed: Ocean Beach and Fiesta Island on Mission Bay.
Many people like to have bonfires at the beach and they are permitted to be burned in city provided fire-pits. Fires are not allowed between midnight and 5 a.m.
“Burn clean wood and absolutely no palettes are allowed,” Sgt. Strobel emphasized.
Lately there have been an increased number of stingray incidents.
“The best way to avoid being stung by a stingray is to shuffle your feet,” Sgt. Strobel said. “If you step on one, they will most likely whip around and sting you.”
If stung, go to a lifeguard station where they will treat the sting with hot water for about 45 minutes which takes away the stinging pain.
Another stinging sea dweller is the jellyfish which float in the water and can be hard to see.
“If stung by a jellyfish, wash the stinging area with salt water, not fresh water and after about 15 minutes the stinging should subside,” he said.
Lifeguards and doctors advise everyone to apply sunscreen before hitting the beach to avoid painful and damaging sunburns.
“Don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses in addition to wearing plenty of sunscreen when you come to the beach.”
Health officials advise re-applying sunscreen after swimming in the ocean to prevent sunburns.
Beach conditions will be somewhat mixed with a building ocean swell on Friday and then diminishing through Sunday. Ocean temperatures are expected to fluctuate between 64 and 66 degrees.
For more beach safety information you can visit the San Diego Lifeguard website at http://www.sandiego.gov/lifeguards/.
Stephanie D. Schulte is a writer/photographer with SWRNN. She can be reached at email@example.com.