Swimming in Surf

Three areas of concern for swimming in surf are:

1. Being pulled out away from the shore by water action.

An “undertow” is water rushing out to the “sea” along the bottom while waves are coming in above the undertow. If you are being pulled out, let the water take you until it lets you go and then swim parallel to the shore for twenty or more yards and then swim back to shore. Become aware of the swimming area by asking local people about currents, tides, and undertows. Weak swimmers and children should not be allowed to swim in surf unless they are with a strong swimmer. If there are posted danger signs warning about hazardous waters, heed the warnings and DON’T SWIM there.

2. Being dunked by the water.

Because of wave movement against the beach, bottom, water depths can vary by a foot or more within a few yards. The near shore area can be shallow, then deep and then shallow again for many meters out to “sea”. If a person is a weak swimmer, he/she should not swim alone in surf. A good swimmer must be aware that differences in depth are a regular part of surf beaches, especially ones affected by tides. The swimmer should remain calm when she steps in a hole and swim away from that area until she can stand up again.

3. Sea creatures such as jellyfish.

Ask local people about sea creatures and look for danger signs. If there is a danger get more local safety information before swimming at that beach. Some beaches fly a purple flag indicating a high risk of sea creatures.