Sun, Sand, and Waves – Keeping Safe at the Beach Part 1

by Mario Vittone

It’s that time of year again – Beach time! To me, almost nothing is more fun than a day (or ten) of blue skies, sun, and surf. While fun, beaches have their own set of hazards. But you can manage them by doing just a few things before you set-up the chairs and point the kids at the waves. Here’s what to do:

Talk to the Guards

My first and best advice is to try to swim at beaches where there are lifeguards present. The United States Life Saving Association (USLA) estimates the chance of drowning on a guarded beach is 1 in 18,000,000.  Even so, the same rules about close supervision still apply, the surf is a whole different kind of water and beach guards are trained to handle it.

Make sure to talk to the guards before hitting the waves. Even if you have tons of experience and you know what you’re doing in the water, local guards usually know more and have been studying the waves on their beach.  They can warn you against dangerous currents or rough water, clue you in to local hazards like jellyfish or other pesky critters. The point is to talk to the pros before you go and be as aware as you can of the conditions.

I once nonchalantly asked a lifeguard, “How’s the water today?” – I wasn’t expecting anything but a casual answer.  “Good so long as you stay out of there,” he said, pointing out two serious rip currents that I couldn’t see from my vantage point.  He had a much better view from his elevated chair than I did and could easily see the rip currents that I hadn’t noticed.

Stay Safe at the Beach

Spot, Avoid, and Know How to Handle Rip Currents

All that water rolling in on the waves has to go back out. In certain conditions, that returning water is channeled into columns of seagoing water. That’s what a rip current is. Sometimes they move slow enough to barely be detected. But given the right circumstances relating to waves and beach profile, they can develop into currents moving at speeds of up to 8 feet per second – faster than anyone could possibly swim. Ranging in size from just a few feet to hundreds of yards, their pull can be to just outside of the breaking waves to over a hundred yards from shore.

As with all risks, avoiding it altogether is best. Though not always visually detectable (Again, ask that guard) stronger rip currents can give off some telltale signs. Look at the water and you may see:

  • An area of water through a surf zone that is a different color than the surrounding water
  • A break in the incoming pattern of waves – creating a smooth patch of water*
  • Seaweed or debris moving out through the surf zone
  • Isolated turbulent and choppy water in the surf zone

*Many assume the calm water at the beach is the safest place to swim, but be aware that the safe looking water may just look that way.

If you are caught in a rip current, the primary thing to do is to stay calm and relax. Swim slowly and conservatively parallel to the shoreline or relax, practice your best float or treading water technique and let it carry you out past the breakers until it slacks. Signal towards shore for assistance by raising an arm or waving, but stay calm. Don’t struggle against the current.

Contrary to myth – rip currents are not “undertow,” a misleading term. They will not pull you under the water. So long as you can tread water or float you will be safe until you can escape the flow and head back. When you head back in, do so at an angle to the shoreline. Again, maintain a slow and relaxed pace until you reach the shore or assistance has arrived. If swimming at a guarded beach ─ and you should be ─ they will most likely have seen you and will be on their way out (or watching carefully).

(Discuss rip currents and how to deal with them with your children. In fact, make them read every page of www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov and write you a report!)

Buddy Rules Apply

No one, not even experienced and strong swimmers, should swim alone. If that is important in pools (and it is) then it’s vital in open water. Personally, I don’t advocate even knee-deep wades into the surf line if you’re alone. In all but the most sloping and gentle beach, the bottom is a mystery at times and you can find yourself swimming when you didn’t intend to – like in the video below:

Have you had a close call at the beach with rough water or a rip current? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below – and if you have any questions at all feel free to ask there too.

Stay tuned for Part II where we’ll take on the sun, the sand, and things that sting. Until then, stay safe out there!

Click here to read the second part of this series.

Mario Vittone - Water Safety ExpertMario Vittone is a nationally recognized expert on water safety. His writing on aquatic risk and drowning prevention has appeared in magazines, websites, and newspapers around the world. Mario is a former Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and instructor and has lectured on boating and water safety across the United States. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation.
Mario’s Blog | Facebook Page

What’s in Store This Year From Water Safety Expert, Mario Vittone


by Mario Vittone
Mario Vittone

Welcome to another season of safe swimming and fun at A Water-Full Life! This is my third year writing water safety advice and tips for parents at Swimways.com. I’m really looking forward to this year because we’ve decided to change direction and head to the beach and beyond.

We know you won’t only be in the back yard pool and wanted to give you safety tips for all destinations. I’ll give you my best safety tips for trips to the beach; what to watch for in the surf and the sand. I’ll give you a checklist and good advice on how to take your family on boating adventures while on vacation. You’ll get my thoughts on parasailing, life jacket use, fishing trips, sun safety, and how to avoid and handle jelly fish and other things that sting. We’re even going to cover cruise ships and help you stay safe at sea.

We know that fun in the water is more than just backyard pools and this year we are going to help you and your family be safe no matter where you are this summer. And something else is new for this year’s blog – video! I’ll take you to the beach to show you a rip current develop; we’ll go on a charter boat and show you what you should know about those adventures; you’ll see me find out just how deep the water is even when it looks shallow!

So stay tuned right here to the Water-Full Life Blog. You’ll have fun and be safe wherever the water takes you.

Mario

Mario Vittone - Water Safety ExpertMario Vittone is a nationally recognized expert on water safety. His writing on aquatic risk and drowning prevention has appeared in magazines, websites, and newspapers around the world. Mario is a former Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and instructor and has lectured on boating and water safety across the United States. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation.
Mario’s Blog | Facebook Page

Host a Spa Pool Party For Your Bridesmaids

by Tracy Kunzler

Sp day
A bridal luncheon is the traditional way brides thank their bridesmaids for all they do to make the bride’s wedding day special. We’ve all been to them. They are sweet, lovely, well-intentioned occasions that, on a fun scale of 1-10, typically rate a strong “Meh.” You want to do something especially fun and memorable, and you’ve come to the right place! We have a plan for a poolside spa party worthy of all the time and energy bridesmaids spend on the bride that won’t take a ton of your time and energy. With the top five wedding months being May-September, a poolside spa party makes sense. Besides, who wouldn’t choose “relaxed, exfoliated and manicured by the pool” over “dressed-up and bored indoors?” This is also a terrific party to host for tired moms, stressed-out girlfriends and helpful neighbors! Best of all, even though it appears to be “all about the bridesmaids,” as host, you’ll get pampered too! Check out this easy plan for creating a spa oasis for your girls!

Spa Services

At least five to six weeks before your event, you’ll want to start preparations and figure out what spa services you’ll offer at your party so you can book your professionals. If you have a spa or salon you frequent, ask if it’s possible to book staff for private parties. If you’re holding your party during off hours, you’ll have an even better chance of securing them. Find out if they are able to bring all the necessary equipment – foot baths for pedicures, massage tables for massages, etc. Ask what they’ll need from you as far as set-up, and have it ready for them. There are a number of companies offering mobile spa parties these days, so do an internet search for services available in your area. (One I found in my area offers a “milkshake mani-pedi.” I don’t know what that is, but I’m in!) Another option is to contact local massage therapy and cosmetology schools to see if they have students to recommend. You can often save money this way.

Whichever way you go, I recommend meeting with your techs ahead of time, getting references and making sure the techs are properly trained in the services you want them to provide. I would also book one more tech than you think you’ll need. You don’t want to be caught short-staffed at your event because someone cancelled at the last minute. Be sure to call your professionals a few days before the party to remind them of the start time and go over once more their list of needs. If your budget allows, I recommend negotiating a price for providing each bridesmaid with a mani-pedi and a shoulder massage. If your budget allows for more services, like facials and full massages, go for it! Ask your specialists to arrive 30 minutes before party time to set up.

Invitation

You can get custom invitations printed through sites like etsy.com, or you can make your own. We love this one we spied on meandmyinsanity.com. You have to admit it has a certain “polish” to it! It’s so cute; your girls are likely to save it as a special keepsake. Be sure to print all your party details on the label like date, time, what services will be provided, and be sure to tell guests to wear their swimsuits. You can find all the how-tos here.

nail polish invitations-8-meandmyinsanity.com

Set the Scene and the Mood

This party plan offers something appealing to all the senses and offers your busy bridesmaids a chance to slow down and unwind. Just having your party poolside makes for a serene setting. Add to the beauty and serenity of your spa setting with a few “lotus blossoms” floating in the pool. Thanks to water-resistant battery compartments, these beautiful floating lotus flower lights add beauty to your pool both day and night. They’re the perfect compliment to your spa theme.

Floating Lotus Pool Lights

Consider having pretty, comfortable robes for your bridesmaids to wear once they enter your “spa.” Sites like etsy.com offer specially priced sets for bridesmaids like the ones shown below. Just type “bridesmaid robes” in the search bar. These make for a special keepsake the bridesmaids can wear during the party and again while getting dressed on the big day. At robemart.com, you can get waffle knit kimono style robes for as little as $10.99 each when you order four or more. There are also services that rent robes for such occasions. Or, if you travel a lot, just take one from each hotel you stay in. Just kidding!



Be sure to load your iPod or smart phone with soothing, instrumental music or nature sounds and play your selections via a pair of portable speakers or docking station during the party. Many libraries have a selection of CD’s of instrumental music and nature sounds you can check out at no cost.

Light scented candles throughout your spa setting. Put out a few containers of scented body butters for guests to apply to hands and elbows. Place a few fashion magazines around. Take clippings of fresh flowers, large leaves and ornamental grasses from the yard to put in vases. Scatter some pillows on your lounge chairs, and set out a pretty basket of your best towels for guests to use.

Menu

Being that your party will likely occur just days before your bridesmaids will don the bridesmaids’ dresses they’ve had carefully altered, your guests will probably prefer to eat light. (Believe me, I know from experience Spanx can only perform so many miracles!) We recommend a menu made up of small bites your girls can eat one handed as they sip and receive a mani or pedi by the pool. Keeping portions small will allow each guest to try a taste of this and that, leaving them happily satisfied. Here’s a spa-tacular menu that’s easy on waistlines and hosts!

  • Cucumber-mint water – No spa is worth its weight in bath salts if it doesn’t offer the classic spa drink. Simply add sliced cucumber and fresh mint to a pitcher of ice water.
  • Flavored ice tea – It’s also nice to offer a flavored iced tea such as peach or raspberry.
  • A signature drink – By offering one signature cocktail you make by the batch, you’ll save time and money. We like this Skinny Girl-Inspired Sparkling White Sangria from nutrition coach Linda Wagner. It’s a slimmed-down version of a summer favorite that is beautiful to boot.

Skinny Girl-Inspired Sparkling White Sangria - Lindawagner.net for the full recipe. Simply add the sliced fruit and mint to the wine and then the stevia until desired sweetness is reached. (Linda recommends an alcohol-free stevia.) Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge to let the flavors infuse. You can also freeze half of the fruit and add right before serving to keep the Sangria cold without diluting the flavor.

 

Spa facial cheese ball – We fell in love with this clever and adorable appetizer from Hungry Happenings and are sure your girls will love it, too! Check out the Hungry Happenings website to see what you need!

 

Finger sandwiches – Use favorite sandwich fillings to make finger sandwiches. Consider perennial girl favorites like chicken salad, cucumber and cream cheese and pimento cheese. You can buy prepared chicken salad to save time – Trader Joe’s has several delicious varieties – and prepared pimento cheese as well.

Fresh fruit skewers – make up skewers of fresh fruit guests can nibble on while receiving spa services. Seasonal and favorite fruits like strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, pineapple and cantaloupe make a pretty and delicious combination.

Mini dessert tray – Make up a tray of small favorite desserts like mini éclairs and cream puffs (these disappear any time I serve them), mini lemon bars, and cheesecake bites. I will share my secret recipe for these with you: I buy the cream puffs, éclairs and cheesecake bites in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I buy the lemon bars from the bakery and cut them up into smaller bites. I arrange them on a pretty tray with some fresh mint leaves or a few pansy blossoms. You’re welcome!

When Your Guests Arrive…

Greet them with the drink of their choice, offer them robes to wear over their swimsuits if you choose to provide them, and encourage them to turn off their cell phones or at least set them on vibrate.

Discuss what treatments are available and let the guests rotate through the circuit. While they are waiting their turn to have a mani, pedi or massage, let them enjoy a facial mask you can make up easily and inexpensively. This DIY skin-brightening mask caught our eye. Be sure to have enough ingredients on hand to make up enough for all your guests.

Ideal bridesmaid gift – Tradition dictates that a bride gives her bridesmaids a thank you gift such as a picture frame, scented candle or a necklace or pair of earrings for the bridesmaids to wear during the wedding. Tradition once dictated that women were not allowed to vote or show their knees. Present your bridesmaids with a unique, nontraditional gift they will cherish using during your spa party and all summer long like a pool float! Your girls will happily think of you and your savvy gift skills each time they peacefully lounge. Picture frames, candles and earrings are really nice, but I can’t nap, lounge, or tan in any of them! Just sayin’!

Allow guests to rotate through desired service stations and sip and nibble at their leisure. You will have created a spa afternoon so wonderfully Zen, that when the party is over, your bridesmaids will say, “Leave? Namaste right here!”

Check out our Pinterest board for more party ideas!

Follow SwimWays’s board Pool & Beach Party Ideas on Pinterest.

Tracy Kunzler - Relaxation Expert

Tracy Kunzler knows relaxing like no other! She has devoted her life to the field of relaxation and is incredibly disciplined in the subject. Tracy lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia where she regularly relaxes and entertains beachside and at her backyard pool with husband Neil,their twin sons Cole and Duke (when not away at college), and their beloved mixed breed Bogie. Tracy’s Book

SwimWays Will Match Your Operation Smile Donation Until April 30th

Now through April 30th, we will match your donation, doubling the impact of your gift, and help save twice as many children

 
Did you know that we’re a corporate partner of Operation Smile? Since 2007, SwimWays has helped provide over 5,000 new smiles to kids through this partnership. If you’re not familiar with Operation Smile, it is a wonderful not-for-profit organization that shares our vision that all children should have the chance for a smile and a better life. Operation Smile provides free surgery for children suffering from facial deformities around the globe.

Unfortunately, children with a cleft lip or cleft palate have a higher mortality rate because they can’t nurse or eat properly. With your assistance, we can help Operation Smile provide lifesaving nutritional support and surgeries to these children. If you decide to donate to Operation Smile by April 30, 2014, SwimWays will help double your impact so together we can save twice as many children!

What are you waiting for? Give a lifetime of smiles to a child today!

Find out more about our partnership with Operation Smile.