From someone who knows
by Corky Carroll
Yep, it’s time for my annual beginning of summer public service column on how to safely go to the beach. This is mostly for those of you who are novice beach goers and have no clue as to the dangers that lurk on and around the golden sands and sparkling waters that are so alluring. This is all material that I have covered before but is vitally important. Even if you are a seasoned professional beach-nik it might be a good idea to read this anyway, just in case.
Huge fact: the sun is not your best friend. You need to do everything you can to protect yourself from it, starting with sunblock. Use it, and use it more after that. Put it on 20 mins BEFORE you go to the beach, reapply often. Yes, you will still get that nice tan you are so desperately seeking and No, you won’t go home looking like Larry Lobster. You can use the ten zillion SPF and still tan. Don’t worry, that golden bronzed and weathered look can still be yours, but you do not want to get sunburned, trust me. Skin cancer is no joke, I know all about it. Every time my skin doc sees me coming he gets a big grin and shouts, “WD-40 the register Vivian, here comes Corky.” Todays burn is tomorrows fight for life.
To further protect yourself wear a hat and sunglasses. The sand and water reflect sunlight and that can severely damage your eyes. Those pretty sparkles on the waves are like a jillion tiny mirrors. Keep covered up as much as possible. Also take something to put on your feet. The sand also gets hot as the day goes on and the trip back to the car could be a lot different than the trip down. You do not want a case of dreaded “fried feet.”
Take along some water too. Being in the sun can dehydrate you quickly. The result is very similar to feeling like you have stomach flu or food poisoning. Nausea, chills and all the other not fun activities that require a bathroom and a lot of moaning and groaning. The extra danger in this is that extreme dehydration can cause a stroke. Take water and drink it. Beer is not water and in fact works the opposite. If you are drinking beer make sure you have one glass of water for every glass of beer. Same with coffee or soft drinks.
Now let’s talk about the ocean itself. Depending on the swell and surf conditions there are currents. The more surf and bigger the swell the stronger the currents are. Even on days when the surf is tiny there are still currents. Generally speaking, the currents are going the same direction as the swell. If we are looking at a South swell, as is normal in the summer, the direction of the current will be going from the south towards the north. There are some who get all techno and want to tell you the coast goes East and West, but I am not one of those. In my mind if you are looking towards San Diego that is South. If you are looking towards Los Angeles that is North. So, on a South swell the currents go South to North. You can jump in the water and without even knowing it be a hundred yards up the beach in a few minutes. The dangerous part of this, besides losing track of where you are, is that these currents turn and go out to sea. This is called a “Rip.” Once you are stuck in one of these it’s not easy to get out. You need to swim sideways, towards the north side, to get out of the river heading out to sea. Then swim back to the beach. Do not try to swim against the current, you will wear out and then you have a serious problem. We always tell people to stay near the lifeguard towers. No matter how good of a swimmer you are, if you are not experienced in being in the ocean, you can get in trouble very quickly. If the surf is big the best idea is to have fun watching it and stay out.
This is the short and quick version. I hope you take it seriously and use my advice. Learning the hard way is not the good way. Have fun but stay safe. Happy beaching.