Greater Miami & Miami Beach Swimming Safety Tips

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By: Kara Franker

Learn about important ocean safety tips for swimmers

Calm, crystal-clear water and soft, white sand have always beckoned swimmers and sunbathers to the beaches in Greater Miami & Miami Beach. There’s plenty of space for you and your crew to experience a day of carefree bliss along the shore in a way that’s just your style. And while the beaches are safe for sunseekers of all ages, here are some beach and water safety tips that’ll make your beach days even more worry-free.

Hang Out by the Lifeguards

Trained in everything from CPR to spotting rip currents, lifeguards help ensure the beach is a safe place for locals and visitors alike. In fact, in the history of the Miami Beach ocean rescue team, they’ve saved more than 300 swimmers and performed more than 350,000 preventative actions. So, for added peace of mind, stick close to the ocean rescue crew and only swim where you see a lifeguard standing watch – especially if you have little beachgoers in tow.

Watch for the Color of the Flags

While the Miami Beach lifeguard stands are decked out in eye-catching colors and Art Deco glory, be sure to keep an eye out for the colored flags, which indicate swimming conditions. Here’s what they mean:

  • Double red flags mean the water and/or beach is closed to the public.
  • A single red flag denotes uncommonly dangerous conditions that could include high surf and/or strong rip currents.
  • Yellow means there is moderate surf and/or currents – so you can swim, but be more cautious than usual, and consider avoiding the water if you or someone you’re with is an inexperienced ocean swimmer.
  • Green: get in there! Green means go and enjoy the calm conditions.
  • Purple flags indicate dangerous marine life has been spotted – usually jellyfish, stingrays or man-o-wars.

Rip Currents: What to Know And How to Respond

While rip currents are common along all coastlines, they can be deadly. Not unlike an underwater stream, they can form in any large open water area, including shallow spots and near jetties and piers.

The best way to avoid one: check local beach conditions ahead of time, including wind speed. You may be able to spot a rip current from shore by looking for interruptions in the lines of wave-break, which suggest deeper water is being pulled back out to sea. Other signs include choppy, churning water or quickly moving seaweed or foam. But sometimes rip currents are hard to see, so ask the lifeguard on duty if they are aware of any that are present that day. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, try to swim parallel to the shore, then diagonally back to land. You can also float or tread water. If you feel you are unable to reach the shore, call out and wave your arms for help.

Don’t Hang Out by Marine Life

The ocean is home to a vast array of colorful sea creatures. Most are completely harmless, but some can cause injuries to humans on very rare occasions. Usually it’s a defensive mechanism, but with that said, crabs can pinch and jellyfish can sting.

If you see a brightly colored blue and purple balloon-like creature, don’t touch it and just swim away. Those are Portuguese Man o’ War jellyfish and they can deliver a painful sting. If you do get stung, stay calm and go see the lifeguard — they have special products on hand to help. Shark encounters are extremely rare, but they do live in the Atlantic Ocean. If there has been a sighting in the area, chances are the lifeguards will be aware.

More Beach Safety Tips

Swimming near a lifeguard station? Check. Minding the colored flags? Check. Avoiding wildlife? Check. Avoiding rip currents? Check. Here are just a few other things to keep in mind before you leave for your epic beach day.

  • Never swim alone.
  • Inexperienced swimmers and young children should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and always be supervised.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties, where rip currents are common.
  • If storm clouds are approaching, leave the water immediately.
  • Enter the water feet-first.
  • Apply sunscreen early and often.

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