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Oahu Beach Safety and Dangerous Ocean Conditions

Rip current, High surf, Undertow and more

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North Shore Surf Photo

One of the most fascinating, beautiful aspects of Oahu's Beaches is also the most dangerous - Surf! More people drown in Hawaii each year than anywhere else in the country.

Here are some dangerous conditions to be aware of while in Hawaii:

Rip currents are rapid moving, narrow bands of water, flowing away from shore to deeper waters. They can be spotted as a turbulent channel of water between where waves are breaking. They are difficult to swim against. If you are caught in a rip current, the most important thing to remember is not to panic! Swim diagonally to the current, not against it. Call for help by specifically yelling HELP!, wave your hands in the air. If you can't swim out of the current, tread water or float. You can float in a rip current as their is no undertow to pull you down.

High surf can be found in the waters surrounding Oahu anywhere, anytime. The North Shore is infamous for its waves, climbing as high as 50 feet in the winter months! However, waves around the entire island can average 15 feet plus, still something to reckon with! If you are not a conditioned, confident swimmer, it is best to stay out of the ocean during times of high surf. Remember to never turn your back to the ocean as waves are unpredictable and may sneak up behind you, knocking you unstable.

Speaking of waves, Rogue Waves are waves that are surprisingly large compared to the current surf conditions. The cause of rogue waves is still uncertain. These waves may be formed when two or more waves come together at sea forming one larger one. Even calm waters can be deceiving. The lesson here again is to keep your eyes on the surf so as to not be caught off-guard!

Dangerous Shorebreak occurs when waves break directly on the shore. Many serious spinal and neck injuries have occured due to dangerous shorebreaks, even with experienced surfers and swimmers. Unfortunately, shorebreaks are unpredictable. Obey all posted warning signs!

Undertows are often confused with rip currents. The difference is quite simple: an undertow is a current of water pulling down to the ocean floor, while a rip current pulls out into the open sea. Undertows are common along steeply sloped beaches. If caught in an undertow, do not panic. Go with the current until the wave has passed.

Waves on ledge refers to large waves that form when deep water breaks on rocks. This may occur in water that appears deceivingly calm. Don't put yourself in a vulnerable situation where you can be swept away or lose your footing. Lava rock crumbles easily and is very porous. Rocks become very slippery and are sharp.

Here's a suggestion: After you pick out the beach you'd like to try, before leaving your hotel or condo, check out the beach conditions and alerts by going on-line to the Hawaii Beach Safety Website. When you get to the beach, ask the lifeguards about conditions and be sure to read and obey all posted warnings! Hopefully this article will help you understand the warning signs you may see while visiting Oahu's beaches. If you have any doubt about surf conditions, stay out!

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More Oahu Beach Hazard Info:
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