The ’ember’ months have begun and soon sunny days will be here again. Dreams of warm sunlight hitting our melanin popping skin while the cool waves of the beach lick our feet can be very alluring. Whether we go solo or with a group of friends and family, there is need to be safety conscious even on the beach.
So here are a few tips to help you stay safe during your summer at the beach:
- Know How To Swim
Before you go diving into the Enemabia Warm Springs in Benue state or any water body in Nigeria, it is important you know how to swim. If you are not confident of your swimming skills, it’s best to have a life jacket handy. Keep children as far from the knee-deep water as possible; ankle deep waters are okay for them to play in. Always go in feet first to determine the depth of the water before swimming or diving. Remember, swimming in a river or ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool. In an ocean, the floor is not smooth; it has sharp undulating edges. It can drop drastically depending on the wear and tear taken by the edges of the landmass around the beach. If you must swim, be ready to swim in waters far above your head with no land to rest your feet on. If you aren’t physically fit, don’t swim; lest you become a victim of drowning. It’s best to stay close to shore, where you can easily call for help.
- Understand the Waves and Currents
Waves are pretty strong when you are waist deep in the water. As cool as the waves on Eleko beach are, it’s best you don’t turn your back on them. You could easily lose your footing and get pummeled by the water. People have left beaches with injuries like bruises, sprains, dislocated shoulders, etc. Also, there is something called rip currents you should know. It is a circulation in the water that forms a strong channelled current that flows away from the shore. It usually has a different colour from other parts of the water surrounding it. Once you spot it, move out of the water quickly. If you get caught in it, stay calm and allow yourself to float on the surface. It will eventually toss you back where it picked you up from because it flows in a circle. Don’t swim against its current or you’ll get exhausted. And be careful around Shorebreaks (waters that splash against rock boulders). They make a great photo-spot but one wrong move and you would be the one in the waves crashing against the rocks.
- Take care of your body
Wear slippers or a footwear at the beach because the sand gets hot easily. Also, make sure you have a shade and sunscreen cream to protect your skin from sunburn. That we are black or dark-skinned doesn’t mean we can’t get hurt by the heat of the sun. Rub your sunscreen cream before you go into the sun and after you come out of the water. If you get sunburned, drink lots of water. You can wear a breathable shirt and a hat to protect your skin and sunshades to protect your eyes. Spending long hours at the beach is often associated with exhaustion, heat stroke and hypothermia. Taking frequent breaks and drinking lots of water will prevent you from suffering any of the above.
- Watch The Weather
Swimming, while it’s raining, can be fun but when on a beach, things can turn sideways fast. Lightning and water make a great electrocution medium. That’s why you need to avoid the beach if there is a lightning or thunder forecast. If you are already at Badagry beach, for instance, when you hear the boom of a thunder, retreat to a place of safety and wait for 30 minutes before going back out there again. To be on the safe side, let the thunder be your cue to pack up and go home for the day.
- Be Mindful Of Sea Creatures
While we haven’t heard reports of Jellyfishes or Stingrays swimming along our shores in Nigeria, we have a ton of Crustaceans that wash up on the beach daily. If it is not an empty shell, it’s best not to pick it up. If you see a sea creature ashore that you’ve never seen before, look but don’t touch it. Even Crabs have claws that can cause pain. Remember the ocean is their territory so keep an eye out for aquatic animals when on the beach.
- Know When Not To Swim
If you don’t know how to swim, you should stick to playing in the wet sand where the waves ebb from after hitting the shore. That’s obvious. But what is not too obvious is the fact that you do not swim immediately after eating; you should wait 30 minutes or an hour after a meal before trying to swim. Also not obvious is the need to stay sober at the beach. Do not swim if you’ve taken alcohol because it dehydrates you and impairs your ability to reason logically. If you want to swim at the beach, never do it alone. Get a friend or family member to accompany you or keep an eye out for you. That way you can get help if there is an emergency. Last but not least, avoid swimming in cloudy water. River Niger is murky, and its tributaries make for a nice beach feel like the Patigi beach in Kwara state. You can play by the shores but best not to swim in it because of dangerous disease-causing microbes that may lurk therein.
- Know Some First Aid Response
Back in the 80s, being a part of Girls’ Guide and Boys’ Scout was one way parents could ensure their kids learned all they needed to know about safety precautions. These days, we have the internet. Before you go to the beach, read up on possible accidents that occur on the beach and know how to respond. Learn how to treat an injury, how to give CPR, etc. You might just end up being the first responder to save someone else’s life.
Now that you know all these, you are ready to go out there and have fun!