WEATHER: Heading to the beach? Tips to swim safely

Posted at 8:04 AM, Jun 07, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-07 08:38:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – With the hottest temperatures of the year expected this weekend as a “heat dome” of high pressure builds over Virginia, I suspect some of you may see this as the best time to visit the beaches of Virginia along the Atlantic Coastline (including me…).

As we enter these hot Summer stretches, schools are out of session, and more of you enjoy the Ocean, now is a good time to remind you of rip current safety. As someone who has briefly been caught in a rip current before, it can be frightening, and exhausting, if you try to fight it.

Watch this short video about rip currents:

Here are tips from the NOAA experts who monitor rip currents along U.S. coastlines:

Tips to know before you go:

  • Check NOAA’s surf zone forecasts.
  • Swim at a beach with a lifeguard and talk with the lifeguard about the safest areas to swim. They know the swim zone much better than you do!
  • Never swim near jetties or piers where there are fixed rip currents.
  • Swim with a buddy, never alone.
  • Know what a rip current can look like: smooth water located between breaking waves could signal the presence of a rip current.
  • If you get caught in the grip of a rip current, yell for help immediately.
  • Don’t swim against a rip current – it will just tire you out.
  • Escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until you are free.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
  • When out of the current, swim toward the shore at an angle away from the rip current.

Most beaches will post informational flags periodically along the shore that look like this:


Pay attention to those flags, and learn the color-coded meanings so you can remain safe, especially if conditions change while you're at the beach for several days.  Different beaches may use different colors (Virginia Beach uses this flag policy) but a commonly used series include:

  • Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
  • Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
  • Yellow: medium hazard
  • Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
  • Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life, but not sharks.

NOAA provides more ways to be "Beach Safe" at these resources:

  • Sun Protection: Information about sun safety tips, and side effects of overexposure to the sun.
  • Surf Safety: All about high surf, safety tips and safety signs.
  • Safety Awareness: Information about ocean safety awareness, how to understand the ocean at various times, and precaution to take before using the ocean.
  • UV and Sun Safety: A detailed informational page about sun safety and what you can do to stay safe when out in the sun.
  • Sun Safety for the Family: General sun safety information and instruction to help your family stay safe while having fun in the sun.
  • Beach Safety (PDF): A list of general safety tips to review before heading out to the beach.
  • Community Beach Safety: Information and points of interest for those who are interested in working to make their local and community breaches safer.
  • Swimming Safety for Kids: An easy to remember list of safety tips for swimming; this information is certainly handy to have when going to the beach.
  • Swimming Skills Chart: Before getting in the water, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of their swimming skills and knows how to stay safe.
  • Beach Safety Recommendations: A brief guide to staying safe at the beach.

Here is a longer, more detailed video about rip currents and beach safety:

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Meteorologist Carrie Rose
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