Every year swimmers are unwittingly injured, which sometimes leads to death. For example, stingrays wounded 1,500 swimmers annually. Over 100 deaths a year are credited to rip currents. In addition, 57 unprovoked shark attacks occurred in 2020.
These facts can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can apply preventative techniques to keep you and your family safe and still enjoy a beach swim at night.
So, you can undoubtedly swim at the beach at night if we:
- Watch for rip currents
- Wear swim shoes
- Don’t carry lights or shiny objects
- Don’t swim alone
- Keep track of the shoreline
- Swim during low tide
- Swim with the moonlight
- Avoid Fishing Piers and Coral Reefs
This guide is to prepare you and give you a good understanding of the natural dangers that exist in the sea. I put together procedures experts have declared as “best practices” that allow you to be safe while enjoying the surf.
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What are Possible Dangers for Swimmers For The Beach At Night?
We want to all have a good time when in the water. But, on the other hand, nobody wants to have an accident or get hurt. Here are the top dangers you should prepare for in the surf at night and how to avoid them.
Sharp Rocks and Shells Can Injure Swimmers Feet
Many beaches have rock deposits and shells that move across the seafloor with the tides. As a result, a lot of people go into the water barefoot without protection and injure their feet.
A simple solution is to wear water shoes or sandals when in the water. Unfortunately, companies don’t make tennis shoes for saltwater exposure, and minimalist shoes have too thin a bottom for adequate protection. So instead, make sure the sole of the shoes is thick enough to prevent foreign objects from penetrating it.
Stingrays Aren’t Usually Dangerous And Only Sting When Disturbed
Several types of sea life live along the ocean floor. For example, over 220 species of stingrays live in subtropic and tropical waters along the bottom. They are nonaggressive and try to avoid people in general.
Accidental stepping on one can cause a reactionary puncture through skin and bone from a barb that can get up to 14 inches long in extreme cases. In addition, the barb can inject toxins that cause pain, swelling, and muscle cramps.
These incidents occur approximately 1,500 times per year in the US waters alone, along with two deaths.
Rip Currents Can Trap Swimmers And Carry Them Offshore
Rip currents are specific water currents that carry objects, including people, out beyond the area of the breaking waves along the beach. They are unpredictable and too strong to overcome if it catches a person.
These currents do not force and hold anyone under the water. However, they are dangerous because they can temporarily trap a swimmer and carry them away from the shore, where often, the swimmer can tire or be carried out beyond the waves, panic, and drown.
Sharks Are Usually Present Between Sandbars And Drop-offs
Shark attacks are rare. Especially when compared to an average of 150 deaths from falling coconuts. In 2020, shark attacks worldwide totaled 57 confirmed unprovoked cases. This total dropped from an annual average of 80 was from 2015-2019.
Sharks are known to stay in deep water and drop-offs, between sandbars in particular. Avoid murky water where it is less visible.
Watch the wave breaks. Shark silhouettes can be seen at times swimming along the waves and are a warning sign.
Shiny jewelry and splashing water are known to attract sharks. So does bright clothing, so avoid these.
Don’t enter the water if posted warning signs or sharks are known to be present in that area.
Jellyfish Travel In Groups And Can Quietly Approach Swimmers
Jellyfish have tentacles that have millions of tiny, coiled threads armed with barbs or venom that can shoot out or brush against swimmers. They often float in groups and navigate at different levels of the water.
Keeping an eye out is essential since they can drift close to shore. One moment the water is clear, and 10 minutes later, there could be dozens floating around. The most significant risk is not seeing them in the dark waters.
Box jellyfish are some of the most dangerous animals in the sea. Experts estimate that over 40 people die each year just in the Philippines.
Others like the Lion’s Mane cause difficulty breathing and muscle cramps. Portuguese Man Of War induces chest pains, chills, abdominal pain, numbness and weakness, and difficulty swallowing.
Sea Urchins Have Painful Toxins In Their Spines
They are between 1-4 inches in size with rigid yet fragile spines. We find most species in temperate and tropical coasts, between the surface and some in deeper water.
Sea urchins cause injuries each year to ocean swimmers who step on one along coral surfaces. These stings can be severe depending on the species, and the toxins can cause breathing problems and discoloration around the wound from dyes in the toxins. Extreme cases result in limb paralysis and rare death.
What Are Sensible Guidelines to Use When Night Swimming?
Swim with Moonlight
Avoiding water hazards requires plenty of natural light. The full moon is the best lunar cycle to swim in. Watch for large fish in wave breakers and jellyfish.
Wear Water Shoes
Foot protection is one of the most important ways to prevent injury. Rugged soles will ward off everything from sharp shells to pesky sea crabs.
Shuffle Your Feet As You Walk in the Water
Sliding your feet along the bottom will allow you to locate sea life such as stingrays and crabs without stepping on them. Kicking up sand will alert fish and possibly sharks that swimmers are in the area.
Swim During Low Tide
Avoid high tide. This tide will bring in more sea life to the shoreline along with larger fish. Unfortunately, it will also bring in more debris and jellyfish towards the shore.
Avoid Fishing Piers and Coral Reefs
Bright pier lights and bait in the water are a big draw for smaller prey. Unfortunately, fishing piers naturally attract large fish, especially sharks, making this one of the most dangerous areas to swim, especially at night.
Coral reefs are a habitat for the aquatic food chain. Additionally, this is a breeding ground for sea urchins and a most likely place to step on one.
Always Swim With a Buddy
Most importantly, never night swim alone. Keep in tight groups and communicate regularly. Decide on the area to swim in and how to signal if one of you is experiencing trouble. Always keep visual eye contact with each other. Never swim unless there is sufficient moonlight to see each other and what is in the water.
Do not take children night swimming as your buddy. They do not have the experience or strength to handle an emergency.
Prepare For Handling A Rip Current
A rip current is dangerous and will be unexpectedly strong. At night, it can be even more alarming. Preparing for how each swimmer will handle such an event can be a matter of life and death.
But, this is not always the case. Firstly, a rip current will occur more frequently in an inlet from one body of water to another. These currents can trap a swimmer and carry them out offshore, and it is not possible to break free until it loses its power past the waves.
How To Break Free Of Rip Currents
A rip current will not pull you underwater. Most swimmers drown in such a current panic and tire trying to break free. Stay calm, keep regular breathing and go with the current until it releases you. Then calmly swim towards shore.
What Safety Devices Lower Your Risks Swimming At Night?
You can use a long rope to retain near your swimming buddies. You can use a strong nylon rope for this purpose.
Wearing a wet suit is recommended when possible. It can help prevent skin irritations, jellyfish stings and can keep you warm in all seasons. A swimsuit and t-shirt would be another good choice.
A Swim mask can help with visibility underwater. You can also utilize goggles for this reason.
Do not use a flashlight. The bright light may attract sharks to your area.
Things to Keep in Mind When Swimming at Night
Swimming with water shoes is highly recommended and requires practice. They will saturate and become heavier. In addition, you should know how to remove shoes in the case of an emergency quickly.
Watch out for rip currents and be aware not to wander too far from shore. A good rule of thumb is to stay inside the first sandbar. It is remarkably deep between the first and second sandbar, which makes the swim riskier.
Be careful not to lose track of the shoreline. Find lights on the beach to focus on, and don’t wander too far down the beach, or you may lose your bearings. Build a beach fire or post lanterns by your camp or vehicles when possible.
Sharks can be more active at night, and you should always be on the lookout. If you see one, do anything you can to get away — punch, kick, and poke, then get out of the water as fast as you can.
Leave the water when you see something you are unsure about or looks particularly large for obvious reasons.
Attacks are still sporadic, and some sources say as little as 1 in 11.5 million.
Leave the water when you are tired. Don’t overstay your swim.
How do you dive under tall waves? Some waves are too big to swim through. Instead, start early, before the wave breaks, and dive headfirst under the suspension of the wave. The power of the wave will pass over your head.
What do you do if you slide your foot onto a stingray? First, stay calm and immediately jump and pick your feet up and swim towards shore. Doing this should avoid contact.