By Corky Carroll
As this weekend is sort of the unofficial opening to another summer at the beach, I thought it a good time to present to you my annual “survival guide”to help you get maximum fun and minimum damage from your time at the beach this summer. This is primarily for those of you who are new to spending time at the beach and in the sun and are not aware of the many obvious and not so obvious hazards that are lurking there, just waiting to ruin your day. This is all material that I have covered before but is vitally important. Even if you are a seasoned professional beach dweller it might be a good idea to read this anyway, just in case.
First off and mega important fact: the sun is not your best bro. 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 or Linda 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 ka- jillion tiny mirrors. Keep covered up as much as possible. Also take something to put on your feet. The sand 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.” The famous “burning sands,” is called that because they are actually just that, freaking BURNING sands. If you don’t have something to put on your feet you are in for a world of hurt. First you will start to hop, then run, then run as fast as you can while screaming, sometimes with a lot of swear words, as your feet blister right under you. This, once again, is no fun. And the total idea of going to the beach is to have fun. Getting burned is a bad thing.
Take along some water. 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. The currents will be going the same direction as the swell. If we are looking at a South swell, one coming from the South 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.
That is the short version. I hope this helps you get back home happy, safe and pain free, not looking like a piece of fried bacon. Have fun.