Making waves in Hawaii. ~Safely~
Posted by Jody on August 28, 2012
For most of us, a vacation to paradise comes with a healthy dose of excited anticipation and a whole bunch of advance planning. We might chat with friends who have been to the islands, visit websites and read travel guides, all with the intention of getting the most out of our upcoming Hawaiian experience. Especially the beaches – of course! Still, many (if not the vast majority of) mainlanders arrive on the Hawaiian Islands completely unaware of the incredible power of Hawaii’s waves (I must admit that I was one of those). The Hawaiian coastline and its impressive surf have unique characteristics that make prior knowledge invaluable.
One of my all-time favorite beach and safety websites is simply titled Hawaii Beach Safety. I haven’t seen a more comprehensive, easy to understand, user friendly beach focused website. It is designed specifically to inform beachgoers and help prevent injury to eager, and often naive, visitors to the Aloha State.
Here’s just a small portion of what you’ll find on the pages of Hawaii Beach Safety:
1. Minimize your risk.
If you are not familiar with the shoreline, do not visit unguarded beaches. Dangerous waves and currents do not happen randomly and most human involvement is a matter of choice, not chance. Many ocean-related accidents are caused by:
- A lack of understanding that the shoreline can be dangerous;
- A lack of caution
2. Learn the conditions.
Always talk to a lifeguard to determine the safety level of the ocean and shoreline. Find out about surf and wind conditions for the whole day. Find out about:
- Strong currents and waves that surge up beaches
- High surf
- Waves that break directly on the shore (shore break) ,
- Hidden rocks
- Dangerous shore areas
Before entering the water, remember to SOAK:
- Study the conditions before entering the water.
- Observe the activities of others in the ocean.
- Ask the lifeguards about current conditions.
- Know your limits in the water.
3. Understand wave and current behavior.
Waves arrive in groups separated by lulls. Watch the ocean for several minutes before entering the water. A calm sea may change in an instant when a group of waves arrives. Don’t be fooled by the variability of the waves!
Waves make currents that can be dangerous. Rip currents in the surf zone can carry you out to sea. A wave rushing up a beach (wave surge) can knock you down and drag you into the ocean. Large waves on rocky shores can knock you into the ocean. Check to see if the rocks or sand you are walking on are dry; avoid wet areas. Remember that beach hazard ratings are only general guidelines. Distinctions between beach areas, ocean bottom, and the angle of incoming waves can cause large variations in safety. No matter what the beach hazard is, there are safe beach areas in Hawaii, learn about them.
The Hawaii Beach Safety site also provides education on rip currents, lists current beach conditions and alerts, offers weather information and supplies surf reports.