Please read the ocean safety information below, so that you and your family can feel safe while visiting Corolla and enjoying our beautiful ocean.
A rip current happens when waves break and water is pushed up the slope of the shore. Gravity pulls this water back toward the sea. If it converges in a narrow, river-like current moving away from shore, it forms what is known as a rip current. Rips can flow to a point just past the breaking surf or hundreds of yards offshore. Rip currents may pull continuously, but they can suddenly appear or intensify after a set of waves, or when there is a breach in an offshore sandbar.
You can sometimes identify a rip current by a foamy and choppy surface. The water in a rip current may be dirty (from the sand being turned up by the current). The water may be colder than the surrounding water. Waves usually do not break as readily in a rip current as in adjacent water. If you get caught in a rip current, the current will pull you away from shore. People often call them “undertows” but that is incorrect. Rips will not pull you under the water but rather farther out to sea.
If you get caught in a rip current:
- Do not panic.
- Do not try to swim against the current as this is very difficult, even for an experienced swimmer, and it will wear you out. If you can, tread water and float.
- Call or wave for assistance.
- Try to swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current, then swim directly toward shore.
- Eventually the current will dissipate and you will be able to swim parallel to shore to get out of the current and then back to shore.
- If you have a flotation device with you, don’t abandon it in your efforts to swim in. Stay with it.
What to do if someone else gets caught in a rip current:
- Get help from a lifeguard or call 911 immediately.
- Yell instructions on how to escape.
- If possible, throw a flotation device to the person.
- If you do go out in the water after the person, take a flotation device with you.
Swimming Safety Tips:
- Make sure you know how to swim before venturing into the ocean.
- Swim near a lifeguard.
- Say hello to the lifeguard as you come to the beach and ask the guard if there are any potential hazards or rip currents that day.
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Obey all flags. Red flags mean absolutely no swimming. Yellow flags mean that conditions are hazardous and you should take extra precautions when swimming.
- Swim sober. Alcohol can greatly impair your judgment and swimming ability.
- Don’t depend on a float if you can’t swim. What happens if you lose the float?
- Don’t dive head first on the first wave. Always check the depth before you dive.
- Use a leash to tether yourself to surfboards, boogie boards and paddleboards.
- If you can hear thunder, you are within reach of lightning. Get out of the water and off the beach.
OK, so who’s ready for a swim? All of this is not intended to scare you about the ocean, but to make you more respectful of the ocean’s power.
And then there are the things totally unrelated to water that lifeguards see people doing on the beach. These are the things that distract lifeguards from their jobs of watching swimmers in the water. Who does these things? Is it you?
Watch your children at all times. Lifeguards witness parents reading books or even sleeping while their children play in the ocean. Not a good idea, even if they’re just wading. A wave can knock children off their feet and sweep them under in a flash. Some parents even drop their kids off at the beach and leave because they figure the lifeguard will watch the kids! Remember, that guard is watching a lot of people, not only your kid.
Lost children. It happens more than you think. If it happens to you, stay calm. Locate a lifeguard and tell him or her what happened. Stay with the guard as he/she communicates with other guards via radio. A good idea is to discuss beach safety with your children before you go to the beach. Tell your children to find a lifeguard if they are lost. Consider an ID bracelet for young children.
Hole Digging. Digging super-deep holes can be dangerous as the sand can cave in on people down in the hole. Wide, shallow holes are safer. And cover any holes you’ve dug before you leave the beach. Holes are hazardous to ocean rescue personnel on the beach.
Beach Driving. Just don’t do it if you don’t have 4WD. It’s a huge hassle to break free when stuck in the sand. And remember, you now need a permit from the National Park Service to drive in Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
We do not recommend walking barefoot in hot sand. Proper footwear is a good idea. And if you need shoes, your children need them too. And don't forget that your dogs need foot protection too!
Dogs. First be sure that dogs are allowed at your chosen beach. If you do take the dog to the beach, be sure to provide shade and shelter.
Sunscreen or sun protection. Although it should go without saying, lifeguards are continually amazed at how many people don’t protect themselves from the sun, including their children and even their babies. Please wear proper sun protection and use sunscreen throughout the day. We also recommend going inside for a break during the hottest part of the day, as this is when the UV index is highest.
Dune climbing. It’s important to stay off the beach dunes, as they provide erosion protection.
Litter. Let’s all leave the beach cleaner than we found it!