Tomorrow, Saturday March 7 it all starts. We have lifeguard tryouts at 7am and will begin training the ones who pass immediately afterwards. Returning guards will do their swim test, drug screen, and rehire paperwork and many will head to the towers to start their first day of guarding of the season. And, of course, Spring Break really kicks off this weekend.
This marks the turning of the season for many of us who work and live on the beach. Its really nice when everyone comes back and starts enjoying themselves on the beach. Its great that we’ve completed all of our winter tasks and my staff can get back to the part of the job they love, which is protecting people who come to the beach from accidents. Its great to see the parks open, smell grilled meat, help lost children find their parents, help people who are injured, serve as island tourist ambassadors, and train in or enjoy the ocean without being encased in a big rubber suit. But its hard to not feel nostalgic about empty winter beaches shared with a few die-hard people who love the beach as much as we do.
Having several hundred thousand people about to hit the water and sand over the next couple of weeks means that there are many opportunities for them to get in trouble. This is a great time for reminders of how to avoid bad things happening.
Learn to Swim- it’s the only sport that will save your life!
Swim Near a Lifeguard- You’ll have an extra layer of safety and there is a trained professional near if you get in trouble.
Stay Away from Rocks- Any structure causes strong, dangerous rip currents.
Swim with a Buddy- There will be someone to raise the alarm if you get into trouble.
Check with the Lifeguards- They’re there for you! And they can give you information about local hazards.
Use Sunscreen and Drink Water- Avoid dehydration and overexposure which increase your risk of something bad happening.
Obey Posted Signs and Flags- Beach Patrol maintains over 300 safety signs along all 33 miles of beach. Many dangers are marked, and the signs let you know where the dangers are.
Learn Rip Current Safety- Rip currents are responsible for 80% of rescues, and likely the same for fatal and non-fatal drownings. If caught in a rip, relax and float and you’ll probably end up on shore without doing anything. Yell for help if possible and if you’re a good swimmer try swimming parallel to shore towards breaking waves, then back in.
Enter Water Feet First- The open water can hide dangers beneath the surface that you can’t see and that can cause a spinal injury if you’re careless
Wear a Life Jacket- especially if you’re a non-swimmer or child when in or around the water.
Don’t Swim at the Ends of the Island- There are dangerous tidal currents at the ship channel and San Luis Pass.
And most importantly, have fun!
Photo by: Billy Hill