Introduction to the Wave Safe Series

Learn how to be safe in the ocean.


Millions of Americans visit the coast to enjoy the beach. And if you want to stay safe at the shore, it’s important to respect the ocean.

If you want to be wave safe, you need to know about the hazards, but knowing is not enough if you don’t also stay aware and alert.

When you drive, bike or walk to the beach you practice situational awareness - scanning for traffic, stop lights, signs and pedestrians to stay safe.

To stay safe at the beach, keep up your level of awareness whether you are on the sand or in the water.

It takes both what you know and what you see to keep you safe in the dynamic conditions on every shore.

In the Northwest, sneaker waves can pull you into frigid waters.

In Hawai’i powerful shorebreaks can crush you.

In California great surfbreaks can quickly become dangerous waves.

Your beach experience stays safe and fun, by being prepared for these and other hazards.

Every time you move through the water you pass through three zones: the safe zone, the awareness zone, and the impact zone.

Your journey begins at the safe zone, the area where waves can’t reach you.

Look, Watch and study the weather, water and land from a safe zone.

Closer to the water or on the sand is the awareness zone. Watch for warning signs, flags and lifeguard stands. Always stay alert to changing weather, waves and tides. Make an action plan here on how to both enter the water and get back to safety.

Where the waves meet the land is the Impact Zone. Staying safe here means knowing how to safely navigate or avoid potentially dangerous conditions and how to get help when there’s trouble.

We want you to be safe on any shore from New Jersey to American Samoa. Before your feet hit the sand, join us as we visit American coasts in the Ocean Today Wave Safe series.