I was up in the Pinetree State last weekend. I’ve picked up surfing. I’m not sure what that has to do with suburban survival other than getting exercise, GETTING OUTSIDE EVERYDAY and keeping safe around the ocean.
In case you haven’t heard Hurricane Bill swept up past the northeast last weekend. CNN reports, “Girl dies after wave knocks her into ocean.” A young girl, along with 2,000 other spectators, was with her dad and closer than she should have been when a large wave swept her and like ten other people from the rocks into the surging sea. The father and another kid were rescued by the Coasties, but tragically this young girl was killed.
Most beaches were closed to swimming. A little south of where I was, Hampton, there were numerous rescues. In other places people standing on slippery rocks to get a better view of the monster waves were knocked over. Some people got broken bones.
When I got up to Maine on Friday night the waves were maybe 3-4 feet. That’s a pretty good size wave. Saturday morning they were maybe 4-6 feet and building all day. Sunday the waves were maybe 8-12 feet with a few even bigger.
I’m telling you a 2-3 foot wave is big. When these waves are pushed into shore by a hurricane they are big, powerful and fast. A 12 foot wave can snap a surfboard, tear a board leash or smash someone into the rocks or the sand.
Many people don’t understand the strength of the ocean. I’ve surfed a bunch this year. I’m in the ocean a lot, a lot. I know my limits though. I’m not going to paddle out with 10 foot waves. There were some real good surfers there though that were experienced enough to be out there. They make it look like fun, but it’s also very tough, a lot of work and takes much experience.
If you don’t know what you are doing, if you don’t spend a lot of time in or around the water and if you aren’t a strong swimmer, you better have a real healthy respect for the ocean and what she can do. And those who do spend a lot of time around the ocean do have a healthy respect for her.
There was a very heavy undertow on Sunday. It was so strong that it was hard to stand knee deep in the water. So I’m standing there and two little girls come into the water. They are maybe 7 or 8 years old. They are waist deep. I have my eye on them because if either of them lose their footing they are going to be carried wherever the ocean feels like taking them. So a minute of so later their fat, middle-aged father comes into the water. I can tell he is a stranger to the ocean because he grimaced from the cold and pulls his arms over his head like the little girls. Just then foam from a big wave comes and sweeps one of the little girls right off of her feet and maybe 15 feet down the beach. I know if one of the girls gets carried away this fat guy will not be able to chase her down so I tell him that it is a very dangerous day with big waves and extremely strong undertows. Luckily they got out of the water.
Surviving the beach:
- You have to watch out for riptides and undertows. A riptide is just the water that has been pushed up onto the beach by the waves flowing away from the beach. Undertows usually move more or less parallel to the beach and back out to sea. As you stand in the water you can feel an undertow pulling at your legs. Riptides occur at low points of the beach. The waves come in leaving a bunch of water on the beach that needs to flow out. If there is a low point on the beach then the trapped water will find that low point and flow out to sea like a river. At low tides you can sometimes see where a riptide can happen because at low tide you’ll see little streams of water flowing out. Well at high tide with big waves lots of water will be rushing out of those little streams creating strong currents out to sea. You can’t fight undertows or riptides. The ocean will win. You need to relax and not fight the current. Your number one goal is not to get tired floundering around. If you tire you drown. Then because riptides flow perpendicular to the beach you should try to direct yourself parallel to the beach. Swim easily, smoothly and gently sideways and out of the rip. Don’t even try to swim back into shore until the current is finished trying to pull you out.
- Stay away from rocks or be extremely careful on them. Rocks that look black are particularly slippery. Many people fall, bang their heads and then drown. Wet rocks are real slippery. Rocks that are regularly beneath high tide will have barnacles on them. Barnacles are sharp and will cut you. If you fall off a rock into the ocean you will have to crawl out onto barnacles in order to get out of the water. It’s not fun.
- If you can’t swim don’t go in the water. There can be sudden drop offs and hidden objects. And if you can’t swim and lose your footing; well then you’re in trouble.
- Always observe. Check out the water to see if there are any rocks. Sometimes when I’m in the surf there are large pieces of wood and other trash floating around. Get hit by a big tree branch and it may hurt you. Is there any sea life, jellyfish or man-o-wars? Surfers? Then be aware of where they and their boards are.
- Know when high and low tides are. That way you won’t over extend yourself and be on a sandbar with the tide rushing in all around you. If the tides come in fast you can easily find yourself surrounded by water.
- Waves look like fun and are a lot of fun, but they can be dangerous. You can escape waves by taking a breath and diving under the crashing wave. If you are at a beach with waves treat it like a baseball game and watch the waves. Don’t stand in the water with your back to the surf or you could get surprised and knocked down. You can’t fight waves either. If you find a wave crashing on you then you just need to go with it. Loosen up and just let the wave carry you. You will pop to the surface when it is done with you. Don’t stiffen and try to fight it. If you find yourself carried out by the current you may be able to ride a wave in. Just go with the rhythm of the ocean.
- Be careful where rivers meet the beach and ocean. The currents at the mouths of rivers can be particularly treacherous.
- Know which way the wind is blowing and be aware. If you are on a raft or a float and there is are offshore winds you can get blown away from shore pretty quickly.
- Don’t be afraid or too embarrassed to yell for help. People drown because they didn’t yell for help.
- Protect yourself from the sun and weather. It may mean SPF30 and an umbrella or a long sleeve shirt and hat. If it is sunny make sure to have sunglasses.
- And for the love of God watch your kids at the beach. Things can happen very quickly. Watch your kids especially if it is a beach with surf.
The beach is a great place and you should GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY © but know the dangers and risks so you can avoid them.
Crazy, huh? They’re like parrots of the north. If you watch dragonflies closely when they are flying you can sometimes see them catching flies. You can actually see the dragonfly open its mouth in mid flight and gobble a mosquito. It’s what they do.