7 Dangers at the Beach

Rip current.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Rip Currents

Rip currents can be killers. They account for more than 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that quickly pull swimmers out to sea. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. The best way to stay safe is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards. For more information about rip currents, visit NOAA’s Rip Current Safety Web site.


A shorebreak is an ocean condition when waves break directly on the shore. Shorebreaks are unpredictable and dangerous. They have caused many serious neck and spinal injuries to both experienced and inexperienced bodysurfers and swimmers. Both small and high surf can be equally as dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. Be sure to ask a lifeguard about the wave conditions at the beach.


High resolution (Credit: NOAA)


In the United States, an average of 62 people are killed each year by lightning. Already in 2008, 24 people have died due to lightning strikes. In 2007, lightning killed 45 people in the U.S, hundreds of others were injured. When thunder roars, go indoors! The safest place during lightning activity is a large enclosed building, not a picnic shelter or shed. The second safest place is an enclosed metal vehicle, car, truck, van, etc., but NOT a convertible, bike or other topless or soft-top vehicle. Wait 30 minutes until after the last thunder crack before going back to the beach. For more information about lightning safety, visit NOAA’s Lightning Safety Web site.


A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by sudden displacements in the sea floor, landslides, or volcanic activity. The tsunami wave may come gently ashore or may increase in height to become a fast moving wall of turbulent water several meters high. Although we can’t prevent a tsunami, the effects can be reduced through community preparedness, timely warnings, and effective response. For more information about tsunamis, visit NOAA’s Tsunami Web site.


High resolution (Credit: NOAA)


Shark attacks, though rare, are most likely to occur near shore, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars, where sharks can become trapped by low tide, and near steep drop offs where shark’s prey gather. The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, but the risks should always be minimized whenever possible. To reduce your risk:

To learn more about sharks, visit NOAA’s Shark Web site.

Lion mane jellyfish.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)


Keep an eye out for jellyfish. All jellies sting, but not all jellies have poison that hurts humans. Of the 2,000 species of jellyfish, only about 70 seriously harm or occasionally kill people.

Take note of jellyfish warning signs posted on the beach. Be careful around jellies washed up on the sand. Some still sting if their tentacles are wet. Tentacles torn off a jelly can sting, too.

If you are stung, wash the wound with vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Or sprinkle meat tenderizer or put a baking soda and water paste on the sting. Don't rinse with water, which could release more poison. Lifeguards usually give first aid for stings. See a doctor if you have an allergic reaction.


Too much sun can spoil a vacation. And it can take up to 24 hours before the full damage is visible. The two most common types of burns are first degree and second degree burns.

Common sense and a few simple precautions can help you and your family have a safe and healthy day at the beach. NOAA logo.