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Ocean safety

5 steps to ocean safety

1. Plan ahead.

  • Know weather, tides and current and incoming swells at the beach you are going to.
  • Maui has beaches that face in all directions, so if it is hazardous in one area it may be safe in another. Maui county rates beach conditions in different areas here.

2. Wait and Watch.

  • Waves in Hawaii come in sets about every 5-30+ minutes- it may look calm, when you first get to the beach, but wait, watch conditions may change.
  • Sneaker sets’ are larger waves that come out of sequence of normal wave sets. They are often associated with a new, building swell or a large swell that is lingering. They are the cause of many traumatic accidents and a good reason why you should never let your guard down around the ocean.

3. Ask a local expert or lifeguard about hazards.

  • Delicate reef, sharp rocks, shallow sandbars and fast rip currents can all be lurking beneath the surface. A local expert can help guide you to the best entrances and exits and share other safety tips.
  • A map of beaches with lifeguards can be found here.

4. Look before you leap and know your limits!

  • Don’t dive in or jump off anything without checking how deep it is below the surface. Even if you see someone else do it first, check for yourself.
  • Locals will swim and body surf in hazardous conditions because they know the local currents and how to safely navigate the waves. If you are not an expert in the local conditions, don’t swim in hazardous water.
  • The ocean is not a pool. Even if you are or used to be a good swimmer, set safe limits. The currents can quickly demand extra energy and short distances can tire you out. Don’t swim away from the shore.

5. Have an exit plan.

  • Always be thinking, can I safely get out of the water from here?
  • Never put your back to the ocean, even when you are getting out of the water, make sure you can still see if waves are coming towards you.
  • Time your exit from the water between sets of waves. If a set of waves comes when you are trying to get out of the water, it might be safer to duck under the waves and out towards the ocean until the waves have passed.
  • Pay attention to currents and if you are getting pulled in one direction. Choose a landmark on shore near where you first swam out, and notice if you have moved from there.
  • If you get caught in a current, don’t fight the current, relax to conserve energy. Understand the current you are in and then come up with an exit plan. It may be safest to swim parallel to land for a bit before heading back to shore. Learn more about rip currents here.
  • Call for help early before it is too late. It can take a little bit of time before help can arrive. Conserve energy by floating on your back and focusing on your breathing.

More ocean safety resources and tips