Always Swim Near a Lifeguard – I can still vividly remember watching my children, bucket in hand, walking up and down the beach on long summer days. They would delight in all they discovered along the water’s edge and squeal in excitement when they were brave enough to pick up a moon jellyfish, hold it in their hands and then drop it into the bucket.
The ocean laid a treasure trove at their feet – and they were eager to explore every last bit of it.
It was also during those beautiful summer days on the beach that they began to discover that the ocean and surrounding environment were truly wild and unpredictable – where plenty of things could sting, bite and pinch; ankle-deep sandbars could suddenly drop off, and the ocean was a fickle friend. And yes, those seagulls they loved to feed would not hesitate to steal their cherished beach day snack right out from under them.
As those days turned into summers, and summers into years, they learned about the environment around them over and over again and learned through experience what could turn those glorious, carefree days at the beach into an afternoon that was, well, not so much fun.
Fast forward a decade or so, and they are able to navigate the world east of the dune line fairly well. They know there are some things that they just can’t avoid – like a surfboard fin to the forehead or an unfortunate brush with a jellyfish. But they also know a few things they can do to stay safe – like spotting rip currents before heading out, always going feet first into the water and doing the stingray shuffle as they make their way into the ocean.
Raising kids who always seemed to have sand between their toes, I’ve also learned some tips to minimize the discomfort of jellyfish stings, sea lice attacks, sunburns and other oceanside mishaps. But there’s one thing I’ve learned that has by far surpassed any knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.
That advice is to always swim near a lifeguard – and with Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, it’s a good reminder for all of us who are heading to the beach this summer.
According to the United States Lifeguarding Association (USLA), statistics over a 10-year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
Also, consider this USLA statistic: The chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards is 1 in 18 million.
“Lifeguards work continually to identify hazards that might affect you,” the USLA website notes. “They can advise you on the safest place to swim, as well as places to avoid. They want you to have a safe day. Talk to them when you first arrive at the beach and ask them for their advice.”
Over the years, lifeguards have been there to help my kids with everything from nasty jellyfish stings to surfboard accidents. They’ve also served as mentors and teachers when it comes to the ocean they love to play in. But most importantly, they’ve been there to keep them safe.
I know it’s a simple piece of advice – to always swim near a lifeguard – but it’s one that could potentially save your life this summer.
*For detailed information on lifeguarded beaches from Corolla to Hatteras, visit www.obxbeachaccess.com.