Our guide to enjoying the beach this summer
Limits are something we’ve all had to get used to during the COVID-19 outbreak. And now that some restrictions have been lifted, yet the viability of foreign travel still poses a lot of questions, many of us are planning to get a sunshine and saltwater fix on local beaches this summer. Which for many families in the UK, means heading to the popular surfing and beach resorts of Cornwall and Devon.
However, with a question mark still hanging over the number of lifeguarded beaches this summer, as well as the risk of overcrowding on the coast when the sun shines, it’s vital to think about keeping your family safe in the unpredictable ocean environment. What with a couple of fatalities on UK beaches within just days of the restrictions being eased, it’s vital to think about measures to stay safe while enjoying the beach.
As families who love the beach and regularly surf with our kids here in Cornwall and overseas, we’re always happy to pass on knowledge and information about beach life and sea safety. Having previously trained as lifeguards, our lives, families and careers have been woven around the ocean and saltwater adventures. Here are some of our top tips for staying safe if you’re thinking about hitting the waves with your family.
Head to a lifeguarded beach
If possible choose to surf and swim on a lifeguarded beach. As of 30 May, there will be just eight lifeguarded beaches across Cornwall and Devon in the UK, with more to be announced soon. It’s vital that you remain fully responsible for your children in the water at all times; but ensure that you swim and surf in the designated areas, where you know there are qualified lifesavers on duty if anyone does get into trouble in the water. When you arrive at the beach always read the beach safety information, and ensure your children keep to the restricted zones. Click here for the UK RNLI beach safety code and information.
Book a private surf lesson
If you want to go surfing, unless you’re at intermediate level or above, book a surf lesson. Your expert instructor will not only get you shredding on the waves and make the experience of learning to surf fun, they will also ensure you are safe in the water, help you understand the tides and currents and choose the best location for your ability. Strict social distancing measures are in place for private sessions with our local KingSurf surfing school this summer, so you can really ramp up your skills and make the most of the personal instruction. Get in touch if you’d like us to book your family session with KingSurf or other excellent surfing schools according to your location.
Do not enter the ocean if there is a big swell or sea fog
If in doubt, don’t go out. Sea fog and big swells are some of the worst conditions to hit the waves. In low visibility it’s easy to lose sight of family members, and difficult to identify rips currents and hazards that might sweep them off their feet and out to sea. Even small, mellow waves can pose a hazardous environment, especially if there are crowds and lots of learners with flyaway boards.
Choose the best time of day to visit the beach
The best time of day to visit the beach is early in the morning (before the crowds), late afternoon and early evening (when the crowds are dispersing), and at low tide when there is more space to spread out and enjoy beach life. With the potential of overcrowded beaches this summer, it’s important to be aware of social distancing measures. Don’t crowd the entrance to the beaches, and look for quieter corners and nooks away from other beach goers.
Splash in the rock pools
Going to the beach doesn’t always have to mean going surfing. If the conditions are too big or challenging for surfing, you can have just as much fun splashing around in the rock pools and hunting for crabs and critters. In the safety of the natural tidal pools you can enjoy a dip, hunt for crustaceans and sea life, and jump off a few of the rocks if it’s safe. We like to take nets and a sea creature identification book. Just be aware that as the tide ebbs and flows tidal pools can become unsafe as wave surges can fill them and sweep you back out to sea.
Whenever we arrive at the beach, the first thing we do is discuss the conditions, identify rips and hazards, and decide where it’s safe to paddle out – marking our area with easily identifiable landmarks.
Here some other ways to get ready for beach life…
Make sure you’re surf fit
It’s vital to work on your surf fitness in and out of the water. Run, swim and train with the local Surf Lifesaving Club… do whatever you can to ensure you are competent and fit before hitting the ocean. And remember that fitness alone isn’t enough to swim your way out of a risky situation in the ocean – you also need knowledge and awareness. Make sure you learn about rip currents – how to spot them and what to do if you get swept out in one – and before getting in the ocean, discuss the conditions, and any hazards. If possible, enrol on a lifeguarding course so that you know what to do in the case of emergency. And if in doubt or the conditions are too challenging, don’t go in.
Have the right kit
Having the right equipment is essential to having fun in the water. A stable, soft-top board and warm wetsuit make all the difference to enjoying the waves and wanting to come back again and again. Whatever level of surfing you’re at, there’s an incredible range of surfing hardware available. And if you’re in doubt about what you need, just ask us!
Know when to say no
There will be times when you have to put your foot down and stop the family going surfing. If I’m not confident that the conditions are safe, or that I can safely manage three children in the ocean, then none of us get to go surfing. When you are a family of surfers you need to know your limits. And at times this summer, that might mean avoiding the beach unless it’s safe.