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21 December 2011

WaterWise safety tips - NSRI

Image: Children swimming in hout bay harbour - NSRI. (Click on image for larger view.)

Sea Rescue’s Educational arm, WaterWise, urges holiday makers to be extra cautious over the festive season.

A spring tide falls on the Christmas weekend this year.

The tides will be extreme and the currents stronger than usual because of the spring tide. As people will be flocking to the beach WaterWise urges beach goers to be very careful and keep a close watch on their children.

Before setting off to the beach, river or dam, make sure that you have a plan if things go wrong. This plan would include a spot to meet at if a member of the party is separated from the group and making sure that everybody in the group knows the telephone number for the Ambulance – 10177 which can be dialed from a landline or cell phone.

The Sea Rescue number for the area that you will be visiting can be found under the heading “EMERGENCY NUMBERS” on the Sea Rescue website :

Sea Rescue’s WaterWise plan includes:

1. Do not swim in your clothes. Wet clothes get heavy and will pull you down.

2. Pack sunscreen, a hat, food and water for your trip to the beach. If you spend too much time in the sun you might get dehydrated and tired. It is very dangerous to swim when you are not feeling well.

3. Make sure you have memorized the emergency number: You can call 10177 from any phone.

4. Plan to go to a beach where lifeguards are on duty. Remember to swim between their flags. Their flags are red and yellow. If lifeguards are not on duty do not swim.

5. If the rocks are wet it means that waves can reach these rocks. If you are on these rocks the waves will also be able to reach you and might sweep you off.

6. Look out for big waves. They are powerful and can tumble you upside down.

7. Look at the tide. Is it low tide or high tide? If you have walked on the sand to go to a small rocky island when it is low tide you might get trapped once the tide comes in and then the water will be too deep for you to walk back.

8. Children should always ask a responsible adult to go with them to the beach and watch them while they swim.

9. Never swim alone.

10. Never turn your back to the sea.

11. Never swim when you are too tired, too upset or too cold.

12. Never swim straight after you have eaten. Wait at least 40 minutes.

13. Never force a friend to swim if they don’t want to swim.

14. Never follow a ball, floating mattress or an inflatable tube when it gets swept out to sea by the wind. You might lose focus on the depth of the water and before you know it, it might be too deep for you to stand and you will also get swept out to sea.

15. Be aware of rip currents. A rip current looks like a river of water flowing out to sea. You can easily spot the rip current – it is the place in the line of waves were there is no wave breaking, and if you throw a stick into the water it will be pulled out to sea.


Do not panic.

Do not try to swim against the current. You will only get tired if you try to fight the current and swim against it.

As hard as it sounds let the current take you out to sea.

If you can, tread water … or turn on your back and float.

Raise one arm in the air and wave for help to alert the people on the beach that you are in trouble.

The further the rip current goes out to sea the weaker it will get. Swim parallel to the beach, out of the current and then use the waves to help you get back to the breach.

Remember: rip currents are at their strongest for a few days leading up to spring tide and for a few days after spring tide. This Christmas weekend they will be at their strongest.

WaterWise is the educational arm of the National Sea Rescue Institute, with a vision to proactively prevent drowning tragedies. Our primary focus is on children between the ages of 9 and 14 from under privileged communities, as they are most at risk of drowning.