6 ways to stay safe at the beach this summer (2024)

From knowing your SPF to identifying a rip current, here are few tips for enjoying the sun and sea safely

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published June 29, 2024 9:15AM (EDT)

6 ways to stay safe at the beach this summer (1)

People stand by the sea at Bournemouth beach, on June 22, 2024 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. Hotter weather is forecast at the start of next week, with temperatures reaching the mid-20s with potential heatwaves in some areas of central and southern England.(Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)




Summer has officially arrived, and with it comes a renewed interest in frequenting places of sand and surf. Growing up along the Jersey Shore, I learned how to "do" the beach from an early age. I know its unspoken rules of etiquette, like avoiding parking oneself too close to fellow beachgoers and keeping music at a respectful volume. Once the spring season turns, my weekends become synonymous with scavenging for seashells and quietly evaluating swells for the most suitable time to bodysurf.

But as much as beaches are places of tranquility and enjoyment, they bring with them the potential for danger, as with any environment governed by the forces of nature.

As we find ourselves flocking to the shorelines nearest us this summer, it's useful to keep a set of tips for safety in mind. Whether you're trekking across hot sand alone with a Tommy Bahama folding chair strapped to your back, or attending with friends and family, here are a few ways you can keep yourself and those around you safe at the beach during these dog days.


Wear sunscreen

This may seem fairly obvious, but in an age of prevailing misinformation, a reminder about the importance of protection from sun exposure is pivotal. A CNN report published June 21 indicated that social media influencers on TikTok are peddling false and potentially harmful information about the sun and sunscreen. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a scientifically proven carcinogen, can lead to cancers such as melanoma, badly burn the skin and hasten the skin's aging process.

While concerns about chemical-riddled sun protectants are valid, there is a spectrum of products to choose from with varying sun protection factors (SPF). Speaking to CNN, David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, said,“Mineral-based sunscreens are not absorbed into the skin and are better for the environment. There are many good, safe choices on the market that don’t leave a white cast on the skin.”


Know how to spot a rip current, and how to swim out of one

A recent spate of drownings in Florida is a grim reminder of the ocean's immense power. Even when a lifeguard is present, being an observant and aware swimmer can sometimes mean the difference between a life or death scenario. Rip currents, powerful, fast-moving and narrow flows of sea water, are common culprits behind ocean fatalities.

Certain precautions can be taken to avoid ending up in a rip current, such as knowing how to identify them. "The best description that we can give is that it's an area where you don't see a lot of breaking waves, and don't see the white foamy water of a crashing wave. You actually see a lack of waves,” National Weather Service Community Engagement Lead Douglas Hilderbrand told TIME Magazine. Rip currents, which function as a sort of river that helps to funnel underwater debris, may also appear darker in color than the surrounding water.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, it is imperative to remain calm and avoid swimming against it toward the shoreline, so as to not exhaust yourself. Other than signaling to a lifeguard that you are in distress, the best course of action is to either swim parallel to the shore, float outward until the current ends, or propel themselves by riding a nearby wave.


Firmly plant that umbrella!

Runaway umbrellas on a blustery beach day are something of a commonplace phenomenon. But a beach umbrella taking flight isn't merely a chore to chase down — it can pose a risk of injury to yourself or those around you, becoming a dangerous projectile in a matter of seconds.

To properly secure your umbrella, choose a non-sloping section of partially wet sand — its firmer texture will help with stability. Make sure to bury the umbrella's post deep enough that it wont come loose when the first big — and inevitable — gust of wind passes through. Opting for a corkscrew-shaped sand anchor can also help to keep things in place.


Beware of digging large holes

In February, a child tragically diedwhen a hole she was digging at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., beach collapsed on her and her brother, burying him up to his chest and covering her entirely, causing her to suffocate. NPR reported that around three to five children die in the United States each year when a sand hole they are digging at the beach or elsewhere collapses on top of them. In cases of survival, victims often require resuscitation.

This harrowing instance complicates a traditionally favorite beach activity for kids, but it's important for parents to remain vigilant about the potential hazards that accompany playing in the sand, ensuring that holes do not get too deep.


Stay hydrated

As rising temperatures due to the effects of global warming bring hotter summers and sometimes deadly heat waves, keeping yourself hydrated is critical. In addition to keeping an ample supply of water on hand, consuming sports drinks can help replace electrolytes lost to sweat from physical activity or simply sitting in the sun.


Keep your belongings safe

Going to the beach alone can be infinitely relaxing, but what should you do with your phone, car keys and other valuable while you take a dip in the water? First, don't overpack. Keep things simple, using a nondescript bag, so as to not invite wandering eyes. Plan to set up shop near other people, detracting potential thieves from being seen rummaging through your belongings.

Bringing along a waterproof pouch or a portable safe can also be useful. Or, you can always opt for the old-fashioned method of placing your items in a Ziploc bag and burying them under your towel.

Read more

about this topic

  • What everyone gets wrong about sunscreen, according to skin care experts
  • Why fewer kids work the kind of summer jobs their parents used to have
  • The world is facing a global sand crisis

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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6 ways to stay safe at the beach this summer (2024)


What are the beach safety reminders? ›

Swimming Safely at the Beach

Always swim in a lifeguarded area. Never swim alone, regardless of your age or level of swimming skills. Keep within your fitness and swimming capabilities. Be aware of weather and water conditions and heed warnings.

Is it safe to swim in the ocean? ›

Always swim in a designated ocean swimming area supervised by lifeguards. Stay close to shore so you can be seen and rescued quickly if needed. Know when to swim. Daytime is considered the safest time for ocean swimming.

How do you keep things safe at the beach alone? ›

Put your things in a zipper-lock plastic bag and bury the bag in the sand, underneath your towel. It's also a good idea to safety pin a string between the bag and your towel so you don't forget it's down there. Get a beach safe. It doesn't take too much effort to find beach safes for sale.

What are the 5 safety precautions when you are swimming in an open sea area? ›

Here are some essential safety tips for swimming in open water.
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  • Wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid. ...
  • Swim with a buddy. ...
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Jun 11, 2023

How do you know if a beach is safe? ›

Before leaving for the beach, check the official surf zone forecast and/or beach advisories and closings. Arrive knowing the local weather, surf, and tide forecasts. Look to see if there are statements regarding waves, dangerous currents, or other beach hazards.

Is it safe to swim in the rain? ›

Swimming in the rain is fun, but swimming after heavy rain not so much. Heavy rain can increase the flow in rivers, creating strong currents and increased water levels. The water could also be colder than you are expecting, with cooler water from higher ground washing downstream.

Is it better to swim in the ocean or pool? ›

Pools are significantly safer than the ocean. While swimming in the ocean can be thrilling, you also face a plethora of potential dangers, such as sharks, jellyfish, and other sea creatures, unpredictable waves, and riptides that can threaten even the strongest swimmers.

Is it safe to swim in the ocean on your period? ›

Periods can be annoying when they arrive unexpectedly, like when you're all set for a beach day or a swim. It's common to worry about whether you can swim on your period, however, swimming while menstruating is perfectly safe and can even offer health benefits (1).

How do I keep my phone and keys safe at the beach? ›

1. Keep It Away From the Sand
  1. Store it in a closed container or a beach bag.
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  3. Set your phone down on a beach towel or, even better, inside a beach bag.

How to know if a beach is safe? ›

Read the beach safety signs at the entrance to the beach. Once on the beach, look for beach warning flags, often posted on or near a lifeguard's stand. A green flag means water conditions are safe and other colors mean conditions are not safe. These flags are there to protect you.

How do you keep money safe at the beach? ›

Consider using a few of these tips to keep your valuables safe and give you peace of mind.
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