Ocean Safety at the New Jersey Shore

You’re heading down the shore… whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, there are some important things to remember that will keep the whole family safe.

Waves are formed far out in the deep ocean. As they get closer to shore, they turn into the breakers we know and love. But you’ll notice that the waves hit the shore at an angle — this is called side current. You’ll notice that the longer you stay and play in the water, the further away you’ll drift from your starting point. Always be aware of where you are in relation to where you started! Pick a landmark like a lifeguard tower if you can’t clearly see your own blankets and beach gear.

Sometimes, the motion of the waves can create dangerous rip currents. A rip current is a very strong current of water heading back out to sea. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Freaking out will only tire you out, and you can’t stay afloat if you run out of energy. Don’t try to fight the tide and swim to shore — the current is much stronger than you are. Instead, swim parallel to the shore. Eventually you will swim out of the current and can safely and easily head back in.

The action of the waves keeps a lot of sand suspended in the water. It’s not very easy to see the ocean floor once you get in a few steps. The ocean floor is always changing and moving, thanks to the never-ending pounding of the waves. What may be a sandbar one second may turn into a ditch the next. Take your time! Between the pull of the ocean and the shifting of the sand beneath your feet, it’s easy to lose your balance.

And because you never quite know what the ocean floor is like around you, don’t dive head-first! If you want to dive under a wave, extend your arms straight over your head before you do. It’s better for your hands to hit the ground than your head! People have been paralyzed diving head-first. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital suggests NEVER diving in water that is less than nine feet deep.

Don’t leave your children unsupervised around the water, and don’t rely on personal flotation devices to keep them safe. A child submerged for only two minutes loses consciousness. A child suffers irreversible brain damage in as little as four minutes underwater. Learn more from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

Rocks and shells beneath the water can be very sharp. If you happen to cut your foot (or any body part!) make sure to wash the wound thoroughly.

The number one, most important rule for beach safety at the Jersey shore or any beach is: ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE LIFEGUARDS! They are trained professionals. If they say to come in, come in. If they say you’re playing too rough, stop it. If they say you’re too close to the rocks, move away.

Avoid swimming in areas where there are no lifeguards, or after the lifeguards have left for the day. The extra swim time may be appealing, but is it worth more than your health? Is it worth more than your life?