Vacation/Beach Water Safety Guide
Beach vacations are a great way for Manitobans to escape our long, cold winters and spend some time enjoying the sun and surf! Weather you enjoy walking along the shore, playing in the sand or relaxing in a lounger for some well-deserved down-time, most vacationers will find themselves close to a welcoming pool or beautiful ocean. For families vacationing near water this winter, we have some helpful tips to keep everyone safe, prepared, and happy all vacation long.
Life Jackets in the Ocean
The ocean is beautiful, magnificent, and powerful, with conditions changing from day to day, hour to hour. For all ages and abilities, swimming in the ocean is different from swimming in a pool. Oceans can have strong riptides, aquatic life, hidden currents, and breaking waves creating a much more dynamic and unpredictable swimming environment. At H2O, we use SwimFins to help students develop proper swimming technique. While SwimFins are an excellent tool to assist children in learning to swim, they are not adequate life saving devices and will not hold a child’s face and head out of the water. If a child ends up in deeper water or is knocked down by a wave unexpectedly, a life jacket will keep them buoyant and bring their head upright above the water. If your vacation includes children spending time playing or swimming in the ocean, it’s best to add a lifejacket to your beach gear to minimize risk and increase safety.
Puddle Jumpers and Arm Floaties
Spending time wading in shallow, calm ocean bays or splashing around in a vacation rental house pool can be immense fun for both kids and adults, creating long lasting family memories! Any time spent in and around water helps children develop a lifelong love of water. But what should children wear while enjoying the water? Puddle jumpers help support a child’s upper body with their feet underneath. Traditional arm floaties offer little to no support of a child’s upper body and minimal buoyancy support for their arms. These floaties can be a lot of fun for children and help develop a sense of fun and play in the water, especially while on vacation! However, they do hinder proper swimming technique as they enforce an improper swimming vertical body position in the water with head up and feet below, which causes kids to move in an upright bicycle motion. A reminder to parents, it has been documented that reliance on these floaties gives young children a false sense of security as they believe they can stay afloat and swim without anyone holding onto them, which leads children to believe they can swim independently, with some cases of children jumping into deeper water without wearing their floaties. Learning to swim is a pillar in drowning prevention and no matter what equipment a family chooses to use during vacation, parental supervision is always recommended.
Depending on your location ,many beaches have lifeguards on duty keeping watch over beachgoers and swimmers. If available, it’s recommended to swim in areas patrolled by lifeguards–look for the flags with red and yellow horizontal stripes to indicate a swimming area with lifeguard supervision. Knowing there are lifeguards around to assist in case of emergency adds an additional level of comfort for families looking to enjoy their time at the beach and in the water.
Beach Warning Flags
Water conditions can vary from day to day or change quickly within the hour. Getting to know beach warning flags will help parents and families understand the current conditions and allow for informed decisions about entering the water. Here are some common beach flags and what they mean for swimming conditions.
Green Flag = Low hazard, calm surf and safe to swim
Yellow Flag = Medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents
Solid Red Flag = High hazard, high surf and/or strong currents, swimming not recommended
Double Red Flag = Very dangerous–Water is closed to the public
Red over Yellow Flag = Recommended swimming area, monitored by lifeguards
Purple Flag = Dangerous/Stinging marine life has been spotted, swim at your own risk
Red and White Checkered Flag = Emergency Evacuations, leave water immediately
Practice your swimming skills when on vacation!
Many of our parents ask us “my child loves the water, what swimming skills can she practice while we’re away on our tropical vacation?” and we have some helpful suggestions. While in a pool or calm, shallow ocean waters, kids can practice their assisted or unassisted starfish floats and kicking on their front and back. If you’re in a pool, safe pool entrances and exits are always a kid favourite, but don’t let the worry of perfecting swimming skills add stress to your vacation! Vacation is a time to enjoy and anytime spent in the water will help kids develop a life long love and appreciation of water!
Try a new water activity
Tropical vacations are an excellent opportunity for kids to explore and try out a new water activity! Resorts, tour operators and travel companies often offer excursions and adventure tours offering introductory lessons for families to try snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, pedal boating and surfing. These are great ways for adults and kids to get wet, try something new and have loads of fun. However, families don’t need to break the bank and book costly tours, simply grab a mask and snorkel at any local shop, wade out into shallow ocean waters and peer down into the wonderful world below. Many beaches have wonderful coral and fish life to see just offshore, without your feet leaving the sandy bottom. Kids often enjoy using a snorkel and mask even in a pool, especially with sinking toys peering up from them at the bottom. Whatever watersport you and your family decide to try out, as always, parental supervision of children in and around water is of the upmost importance. Whether your family’s vacation is near the ocean or pool, it’s always recommended to stay hydrated, use appropriate sun protection, swim with a buddy, obey beach signs and flags, swim near a life guard and of course, learn to swim! Happy travels to all our H2O families