Top 10 Safety Tips for Ocean Swimming:
In order to enjoy the ocean environment and a safe visit to the beach, the City of Virginia Beach Department of Convention and Visitor Development offers the following tips for ocean swimming courtesy of the city's own Virginia Marine Science Museum.
  1. Ask Lifeguard about water conditions
  2. Swim in an area monitored by lifeguards and obey all signal flags
  4. Always swim in groups and avoid secluded beaches
  5. Know basic water safety, and how to avoid and survive dangerous situations like rip currents
  6. Be aware of the tidal cycles and marine life in the area in which you are swimming
  7. Avoid the water at night, dawn or dusk
  8. Avoid wearing shiny jewelry in the water
  9. Don't swim in waters being fished or around fishing piers
  10. Don't dive. Go feet first
  11. Know your swimming ability and stay close to shore
  12. Swim with care near sandbars or steep drop-offs
  13. Never leave children unattended. 

Virginia Shark Task Force Report (925kb pdf)

Rip Currents - Rivers Through The Surf: 
Most waves are formed by wind on the water. Sea waves usually result from storms, often hundreds of miles from shore. Waves are not all equal in size. Sometimes a group of larger waves comes ashore one after another. This is known as a "set" of waves.

When waves break, water is pushed up the slope of the shore. Gravity pulls this water back toward the sea. If it converges in a narrow, river-like current moving away from shore, it forms what is known as a rip current. Rip currents can be 50 feet to 50 yards or more wide. They can flow to a point just past the breaking surf (the surf line) or hundreds of yards offshore. Some 80% of rescues by lifeguards at America's surf beaches are due to persons being caught in rip currents.

Rip currents may pull continuously, but they can suddenly appear or intensify after a set of waves, or when there is a breach in an offshore sandbar. Longshore currents, inshore holes, and other bottom conditions contribute to the formation of rip currents. Inshore holes and sandbars can also greatly increase the danger of spinal injury. More info about rip current formation and survival available on this page from NOAA  simply close the new window when done reading.

Rip Current Survival:
The sea is a wonderful playground, but you must respect its power. Learn to swim and consider participating in a junior lifeguard program. When swimming, choose an area protected by lifeguards. If you are not a strong swimmer, go no further than knee deep. If you decide to swim, check the conditions first to identify any dangerous currents. Ask a lifeguard for assistance. You can sometimes identify a rip current by its foamy and choppy surface. The water in a rip current may be dirty (from the sand being turned up by the current). The water may be colder than the surrounding water. Waves usually do not break as readily in a rip current as in adjacent water.

If you get caught in a rip current, try to relax. A rip current is not an "undertow" -- it will not pull you under. Do not try to swim against the current as this is very difficult, even for an experienced swimmer. If you can do so, tread water and float. Call or wave for assistance. You can also try to swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current, then swim directly toward shore.

Longshore Currents:
The same forces which cause rip currents also cause long shore currents. These currents are most evident when waves hit the shore at an angle. This tends to cause the water to be pushed along the beach away from the direction of the oncoming waves. Usually, longshore currents are less hazardous than rip currents because they move along the shore, not away from the shore, but they can knock children and weaker adults off their feet. More importantly, long shore currents can feed and increase the power of rip currents. In other words, the longshore current may move along the shore, then turn offshore to become a rip current.

Inshore Holes:
Variable wave conditions, particularly seasonal changes in wave patterns, can create unevenness in the ocean bottom. This includes sandbars and sudden deep spots, called inshore holes. They can surprise waders, who suddenly find themselves over their heads. They can also create channels in the bottom, which concentrate and greatly intensify the power of rip currents. At any beach with uneven bottom conditions or obvious sandbars, a higher level of caution should be used.

Pool Safety Tips:
Unfortunately, with the abundance of swimming pools in the City of Virginia Beach, we must educate everyone in water safety. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of four, and most childhood drownings occur in residential pools. The Department of EMS offers these water safety tips for all parents and pool owners:

  • Teach children to swim at an early age.
  • NEVER leave a child unsupervised in or near any body of water, even for a second.
  • Never leave toys, wagons, or tricycles around the pool.
  • Invest in a pool-motion alarm or a pool fence.
  • Attend a course in CPR and learn what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Have a phone available whenever participating in any type of water activity.
  • Fence pools around all four sides with a minimum height of four feet, and use a self-locking gate for the pool enclosure (This is a City of Virginia Beach Building Code requirement for all pool constructions).

Boating and Jet ski Safety Tips:
The sun, water, and wind can make for a great day to go cruising along a river, lake, or majestic bay in a boat. For many individuals and families this is a favorite summer pastime. It can be safe, as well as fun, if the fundamental rules of boating are understood and observed.

  • Don't drink and boat. Boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. The "designated driver" system doesn't work in boating. Everyone is at risk because the boat's motion, coupled with alcohol, increases the chances of losing balance and falling overboard.


  • Everyone on the boat should wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. A PFD is the best protection against drowning. Check the weather and water conditions before leaving the shore. If it looks like storms are brewing or the water is very choppy, wait for another day to go boating.


  • Limit the number of passengers in a small boat. Don't exceed the limit allowed by the boat's capacity plate. Keep in mind the size and weight of each person. Equal distribution of weight will limit the possibility of capsizing.
  • Have visual distress devices approved by the Coast Guard on board. Pyrotechnic red flares, orange smoke, orange distress flags, and electric distress lights must be in good working order and easily accessible.


  • Use the "one-third rule" in fuel management. Use one-third of the fuel to go, one-third to get back, and keep one-third in reserve.


  • Always tell someone where you will be boating, when you will be back, what your boat looks like, and other identifying information.

Recreational boating is second only to highway transportation in the number of fatalities that occur each year. Alcohol is involved in most of these accidents.

To ensure that you are following safe boating procedures, sign-up for a boating safety course near your home. Always remember: Boating and booze don't mix!