Summer is one of the most anticipated seasons of the year. The days are longer, school is out, and it is finally time to take that long anticipated vacation with your family. Many people flock to the ocean in order to escape the brutal summer heat, although most are unprepared for some of the dangers that await both above and beneath the cool surface of the water such as rip currents, shorebreaks and sunburn .

Rip Currents

Commonly misidentified as an “undertow” or “riptide,” a rip current is a powerful, narrow current in the surf zone of a beach that quickly moves away from shore. They typically flow directly from the shore, through the surf zone, and past the breaking waves. Over 80% of all water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip currents, making them the leading risk for any beachgoer. To avoid getting caught in one, everyone should learn how to identify them. According to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), you should look for “a channel of churning, choppy water, an area having a notable difference in water color, (or) a break in the incoming wave pattern.” They also advise people never to swim alone, and if caught in a rip current, to swim out of the current parallel to the shoreline, before swimming toward the shore. USLA has also calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards is 1 in 18 million (0.0000055%), therefore they highly recommend only swimming where lifeguards are present.

Shorebreak

A shorebreak is a situation in which waves abruptly break directly on the shore instead of deeper in the ocean, sometimes picking a person up and throwing them down onto the sand. There have also been known occurrences of people diving into a shorebreak, which is not deep enough for such activities. These incidents can often cause serious injuries to the neck or spinal cord, occasionally inducing paralysis or a fatality. To keep yourself safe, experts recommend never turning your back on the waves, never diving directly into the bottom of a wave, and advise putting your arms out in front of you to protect your head and neck, if caught by a wave.

Heat and Sunburn

Sunburn – red, throbbing skin that feels hot to the touch – usually surfaces within a few hours after too much time spent being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Once the body recognizes the damage done by the UV light, it will begin to saturate the area with blood to help initiate the healing process, causing the characteristically painful, lobster-red skin we associate with a sunburn. Allowing yourself to repeatedly get sunburnt can eventually accelerate the skin’s aging process, causing freckles, premature wrinkles, rough skin, or even skin cancer. In order to avoid these outcomes, doctors suggest staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. They also advise using generous amounts of sunscreen and wearing a hat or clothing to protect your skin when in the sun for a prolonged period of time.