If in doubt, don’t go out
This is number one! If you’re not sure or just don’t feel right about jumping in the ocean, stay in.
Even if conditions look calm, the ocean and beach conditions in Hawaii are wildly unpredictable — and each area is different throughout the year.
Never turn your back to the ocean
Hawaii’s shorebreak waves are extremely powerful, even small ones.
If you’re at the shoreline looking out to the water, or coming in from the ocean — keep your eyes on the water and don’t turn your back. This mean you’ll have to walk backwards, which is much better than getting caught off-guard from a breaking wave.
Don’t go out where no one is out
It’s safer to swim or enjoy water activities in areas where other people are doing it. For one thing, seeing more people in the water means the conditions are generally okay.
Also, if there’s an emergency — people are around to help you. If there really is nobody around and you’re on a popular beach that’s usually safe, at least consider going out with a buddy.
Stick to beaches with lifeguards…and listen to them
Stick to beaches with a lifeguard tower that you can see. Most of Hawaii’s beaches are staffed with towers, but not all.
If you are at a lifeguarded beach, make sure it’s during their working hours. And if they are working — make sure you listen to them!
Heed the signs
The metal warning signs in the sand at Hawaii’s beaches are an all-too common sight, but each of them serve an important purpose.
Make sure you read them and you’re aware of the hazards and risks of the area.
Study the conditions before you go in
If you ever watch surfers on the shore, you’ll often see them take a few minutes to study what the ocean is doing before paddling out. This is crucial.
Keep a close watch on currents, riptides, shallow spots, places where the reef is sticking out, and also what other people are doing.
If you don’t know what to look for, ask a lifeguard. They will always take the time to educate you.
If you’re a frequent beachgoer who loves the water, a pair of good swim or surf fins is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Fins offer a huge advantage in surf or rough water because they can propel you about 10x faster than your feet.
They can get you out of a tough situation and to safety, plus they make it easy to have a blast!
Dive under waves
If a wave if coming straight at you, don’t panic — and definitely don’t turn around and try to swim or “run” away. What you need to do is dive under the wave.
Under a wave is an area that’s protected or at least buffered from the impact, partly because of the water layer above you and partly because you’re escaping where the wave’s energy is focused — on the surface.
Practice diving under waves whenever you get the chance and soon it will become second nature to you.
Leave the wildlife alone
Hawaii’s honu (sea turtles) and Hawaiian monk seals are so cute and intriguing that it can be tempting to touch, chase, or swim with them.
Don’t do this — it’s illegal and you could be fined (and shamed). Both creatures are protected under state and federal endangerment laws.
Give honu a clearance of 10 feet, Hawaiian monk seals a clearance of 50 feet, or 150 feet if it’s mother monk seal with her pup.
Use reef-safe sunblock
Did you know that Hawaii was the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate? These chemical harm coral reefs and ocean life, so always make sure you’re buying reef-safe sunblock
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