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Beach Warning Flags


Always pay attention to Beach Warning Flags.  Here is a guide to help with their meaning.


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Rip Currents


Rip tide info


The most common threat when entering the water at the beach are Rip Currents.  Their danger is reduced significantly by simply understanding how they work and how to react if caught in a rip current.


In simple terms Rip Currents are produced when the water pushed onto the beach by the energy in waves flows back out into the ocean kind of like a river that flows out to sea.  In instances of a strong  Rip Currents the water built up on the beach by multiple strong waves all flows out at once.  The water continues to flow out until it reaches the deep water at the end of the wave zone or the point where the waves start to form. 


The best way to avoid Rip Currents is by spotting areas that create Rips regularly and avoiding them.   Since we know that Rip Currents are mini rivers of out going water spotting one can be done by watching sea foam, sea weed or other items in the water.  If you see a trail of sea foam being pull out instead of being pushed in by the waves there is a good chance that a Rip Current is in that area.


So what happens if you do get caught in a Rip Current.  First relax, stay calm and don't just swim for shore.  Panicking and swimming against a Rip Current is like trying to swim up river. You will not gain any ground and eventually run out of energy.  This is the biggest danger a Rip Currents poses, Exhaustion.  When you run out of energy you cannot swim, so do not overexert yourself.  The longer you can stay above water the greater your chance of surviving.


Since we know that rip currents are like rivers that flows out to the end of the Surf zone, we know that this all the further it will take us.  It will not drag someone miles out to sea, that is a myth that tends to make people panic.  The next thing to know is that a Rip Current is generally not very wide.  Here in the Space Coast they are usually not more than 30 feet across or less.  Though during very high surf conditions and freak conditions can make them larger.


So the easiest way to get out of a rip is to swim parallel to the beach.  often it only takes a few seconds before you feel yourself free of the pull.  Then Swim to shore using the waves as extra push by body surfing in.  If you cannot break free just tread water.  Remember the rip will take you to the end of the break zone and no further.  Swim parallel to eh beach then in  to shore or if there are lifeguards or people on the beach signal for help by waving your arms and calling for help.  Once people see you just stay calm and tread water.  Float on you're back if you can to save energy.




Dangerous Marine Life


So what is the first image that pops into your head when you read "Dangerous Marine Life"?  Sharks?  Barracudas?  Nope, Shark bites are one of the statistically least likely ways you will be injured at the beach.  In fact you have a better chance of being injured in the car ride or even the walk over the board walk.  in fact even the large threats are very rare and usually very avoidable.


Basically the larger the marine life the less likely the threat.  Three of the most common  threats and ways to avoid them are:



Sharks - Sharks are scary but also rarely attack Humans unless given a reason or most likely mistaken Identity.   Bites in this area are rarely fatal and cause the same damage as a large dog bite.   In fact most bites are by smaller sharks that once they realize they have a hold of a human that's as big if not larger than them and not a small fish they run away.


So why do Sharks bite?  Most of the time mistaken Identity.   Sharks key in on things that look like fish.  Shiny Jewelry should never be warn into the water.  Why do you think fishing lures are shiny?  A big reason surfers get bit is that they are tan everywhere except the bottoms of their feet.  The shading makes your foot look like the white bottom of a fish.


Another reason for a shark bite is missing a fish.  Sharks eyes roll back for protection when striking so essentially they are attacking blind.  If there is a school of small fish (bait fish) near you it's best to move away since a shark could go for a fish and blindly bite you instead.  Another sign that something is hunting fish is if fish just out of the water.  They do this to escape larger predators.  So if you see this behavior move away from the area.


The biggest mistake you can make when swimming or surfing in areas known to have sharks is going into the water with a cut or other source of blood.  Sharks have an amazing ability to sense blood in the water and if they think you are injured and an easy meal they can strike.


So what do you do if you've been bitten?  Stay calm!  Get out of the water and alert people near by and a life guard if one is present.  If the bite is just a scrape or minor treat it like you would any other scrape by washing with soap and apply pressure to stop bleeding.  If the bite is too deep for home treatment see a doctor or ER for stitches.  If the bite is very deep or you see gushing blood call or better yet have someone else call 911 and get emergency care.  Keep pressure on the wound to reduce bleeding and as always stay calm and still.



Sting Rays - Their Tail Barb can supply a nasty sting.  Since Sting Rays bury themselves in the sand they can be hard if not impossible to see.  The best way to avoid Sting Rays is to shuffle your feet in areas  that Sting Rays inhabit.  The Sound and Motion will often scare away a Sting ray before you even get close.


If stung the stingray does have venom which can cause you a very bad day.  Death is very rare and only reported from puncture of the heart.  As always try to stay calm and get out of the water and alert people near by and a life guard if one is present.  The venom of the Sting Ray can cause a variety of effects including Swelling, Sweating Low Blood Pressure, Faintness, weakness, dizziness, Nausea, Diarrhea, Headache, Shortness of breath, Seizure, Cramps, Pain, Paralysis and Irregular Heart Beat.   Not fun but again not usually fatal.


First aid should start with having the person lay down and rest.  Treat the area of the would by first reducing bleeding if the are bleeding a lot.  Submerging the effected area in as hot water as can be tolerated without burning will help neutralize the venom.  Remove any easy to remove left over pieces of the stinger.  Clean the wound with soap and water.


Seek medical care at the Emergency Room if the patient is bleeding porously of have very acute symptom.  Otherwise take the patient to his/her doctor or  an Urgent care since you will need Antibiotics and maybe a Tetanus shot.  You will also need to have the wound checked for leftover parts of the stinger that might have been missed and maybe a few stitches.




Portuguese Man o'War - Beautiful to look at but look do not touch is the name of the game. 

Most people are not allergic but some will need to be taken to a doctor or if  you notice your throat begin to swell and breathing is difficult go straight to the emergency room!

So what do you do if stung by one of these evil beauties?


  1. Remove any tentacles still on you with anything handy; a plastic bag, candy wrapper etc.  Don't use you fingers without protection you'll just sting yourself more.

  2. Rinse the effected area with salt or fresh water to remove any remaining tentacles.  if in your eyes rinse with room temperature fresh water for at least 15 minutes and if any irritation, burning, blurriness or light sensitivity remains see a doctor.

  3. Apply ice to help with swelling and pain.

  4. The effected areas may itch much like a bee sting after the fact use over the counter anti-itch creams for relief.

Applying heat, vinegar, urine or alcohol to Man o'War stings will not help.  These methods have been studdied and proven ineffective.



Bacteria - Yes that smallest are often the worst.  The ocean like everything else if full of bacteria so if you have a bad wound you should stay out until it heals.  If your skin is punctured in the ocean, get out of the water, wash the wound with soap and water and watch it for signs of infection.  Rinsing off with fresh water when leaving the ocean is also a good way to kill saltwater bacteria because just like saltwater kills freshwater bacteria freshwater kills saltwater bacteria.

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