Be careful in this glorious ocean playground!

A portly Hawaiian entertainer, being interviewed on a radio show, admitted she didn’t know how to swim. The host was astounded and asked her how someone who had lived in the islands all her life had never learned to swim. Her answer: “I could never go a half hour without eating.”

It’s a funny line, but we take water safety very seriously in Hawaii and it’s one of our major concerns relating to our visitors. We urge you to heed the following advice and pass it on to anyone traveling with you:

The ocean can sneak up on you, even as you’re in it. The first rule followed by even the most expert local swimmers and surfers: DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON THE OCEAN! Swim at beaches where there are lifeguards, and don’t swim alone. If you’re traveling alone, exchange greetings with someone swimming near you.

Supervise all young children while they are in or near the water. Wherever you live and swim, most drowning and near-drowning incidents happen in familiar surroundings during very short supervision lapses. Don’t let older kids watch younger kids in the water. They are not trained or mature enough to be given such a responsibility in the ocean (or in a hotel pool for that matter); and don’t rely on flotation devices for kids.

“Those waves don’t look that bad” is a phrase you should never use. If the surf’s up, stay out of it unless you’re a really-h3 swimmer. Check for warning signs. A red flag signifies that there is the possibility of severe wave action. A yellow and red flag signifies the possibility of severe wind and wave action. In extremely severe surf conditions, the beaches will be closed.

Most of the really serious injuries that occur at Hawaii’s beaches are wave-related. Waves are probably the single most dangerous natural occurrence on any shoreline in the world. The force of a large wave as it hits the beach can be measured in tons per square inch.

You will hear warnings of rip currents. These are currents that can carry you from the relative safety of the inshore waters out into deeper water. You could walk into the surf without realizing that a h3 out-going current can actually knock you off your feet and carry you out to sea. If you should find yourself in a current that’s taking you away from where you entered the water, keep in mind that panicking will only tire you sooner. Try to relax and go with the flow. Don’t attempt to fight the current. Swim across or perpendicular to the current’s direction. Rip currents eventually die out as they reach deeper water, at which point the current will release you. When it does, swim parallel to the shore and then make your way in. If the waves prevent your return to shore, continue treading water and stay calm.

Sorry if we’ve alarmed you with this. Those of us who live here adhere to the advice it carries as a matter of course. Your safety and your full enjoyment of everything these islands offer you are important to us. We hope you will be cautious as you enjoy.

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