I realized after taking my 20-something-year-old friend to swim in the ocean for the first time — and she screamed, jumped and came running at me the moment she saw a miniature crab — that not everyone understands that the ocean is more than just a really big pool.
Not only is it full of living creatures, but the water itself is mysterious, unpredictable and can be really dangerous if you aren't smart when you are out in it.
Here are a few ocean safety tips to keep you safe when hitting the beach (other then the obvious like wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated, of course).
Watch out for sleeper waves
These waves are the ones that crash further up on the beach than normal and can knock over small children, or people who don't have steady footing, and pull you out to sea. Be careful when walking near the water line along the beach.
When swimming be careful of rip currents
Rip currents are swift rivers of backwash that surge through the surf (the choppy, foamy or discoloured water near the shore). If you are caught in one, DO NOT swim against it. Swim parallel to the beach until you are free of the current, and then head for shore.
Stay away from rocks, driftwood and piers
Like icebergs, it is hard to tell how big the rock is underneath the water until you have scraped your hands and knees on it. Unexpected currents and large waves can push you into these obstacles as well, causing a lot of damage.
Watch out for reefs
Reefs are pretty easy to spot, they are usually a dark shadow in otherwise clear or blue water. You can also spot them by the waves that usually break over them. Not only can you risk damaging the fragile ecosystem if you step, kick, or otherwise knock into a reef, but a scrape can cause a nasty infection.
Stay alert for fish and other critters
Jellyfish are usually easy to spot, as are small crabs that are more afraid of you then you are of them. Shuffle your feet when entering the water if you are somewhere that has stingrays present, and never go in the water with open wounds — no need to tempt the sharks!
When in doubt, ask a lifeguard
The lifeguards are aware of currents, tides, and any type of critters that might be present on the beach. If there are not lifeguards on the beach that you are headed to, do a bit of research ahead of time or, if nothing else, make a conscious decision to be alert and aware of your surroundings.