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Nantucket Beach Safety
For your information we are providing general safety guidelines for enjoying our beaches.

Nantucket Dangerous Surf Conditions

Rip CurrentsRip Currents
Rip Currents are the major cause of surf accidents. They are characterized by a strong flow of water rushing back out to sea. Rip currents occur when large amounts of water accumulate near shore due to natural wave action. Since water seeks its own level, the broken waves take the path of least resistance. This powerful flow of water can pull even strong swimmers into deep water. Generally, the size and strength of the rip currents are in proportion to the size and frequency of the wave action - the larger the waves, the stronger the rip currents. Depending on lateral currents, rip currents can be fixed at one location or can occur at more than one point along the beach. Large rip currents can be recognized by the sandy discoloration of the water.
Shore Break
Shore Break can occur at high tide when heavy surf conditions cause large waves to break on the beach with little or no water under them. Shore break can be particularly dangerous to a swimmer who is caught in such a wave because the wave can slam the swimmer on the beach, causing injury. Shore break is the most frequent cause of serious back, neck and shoulder injuries at the beach. Avoid body surfing during shore break conditions.
Lateral Currents
flow parallel to the beach. They range in speed from fast-flowing to subtle movement. These currents pose little threat to the average swimmer, but weaker swimmers can be pulled into rip currents and heavy surf simply by the force of lateral currents.
Backwash usually occurs with high tides on beaches that rise sharply away from the water's edge. Backwash occurs when the water remaining on the beach returns forcefully to the surf beneath later incoming waves. It is particularly dangerous for small children playing near the water's edge. Even in the short distance between breaking waves and deep water, backwash is powerful enough to knock people off their feet.

Nantucket Swimming Safety Advice

Beach Access Location NumberBeach Access Location Number
When you arrive at the beach - note your Beach Access Location Number which will be posted at the beach entrance. In case of emergency, when calling for assistance, give the operator this Beach Access Location Number so emergency vehicles can find you quickly.
Rules & Regulations
  1. Take direction from lifeguards at all times
  2. Floatation devices allowed at lifeguard's discretion
  3. No un-leashed dogs are allowed
  4. No fishing
  5. No kite flying
  6. No vehicles allowed
  7. No open fires
  8. No alcohol
  9. No beach holes deeper than the patrons waist. Please fill in your hole before you leave.
General Info
  • Never swim alone - use the buddy system.
  • • Don't overestimate your swimming ability, especially early in the summer when the water is cold. Swimming ability is severely decreased in cold water.
  • • Judge your ability to participate in beach activities based on your swimming skills without the assistance of rafts and other flotation devices.
  • • Never dive into shallow water, or water of unknown depth.
  • • If you are confronted by a large wave and there is not enough time to get away from it, try to dive underneath the wave. Keep your body as low as possible until the wave passes over you. Timing is important, dive into the base of the wave just before it breaks. Do not dive if the water is too shallow - instead crouch and keep a low body profile.
  • • If caught in rip currents, relax and swim toward the shore at a 45-degree angle until you are free of the current. If the rip currents are strong, swim parallel with the shoreline in the same direction as the littoral current and then swim diagonally toward the shore. If you are not able to swim out of the currents, call or wave for help.
  • • When body surfing, do not ride waves in a straight line toward shore. Instead, surf at an angle to the waves. Stay away from the white water in the wave center to avoid going "over the falls."
  • • Never swim while intoxicated. Alcohol impairs judgement, unnecessary risks are taken and a swimmer will tire more easily, increasing the chance of an accident.
Whistle Alerts
  1. Long Whistle
    Emergency, Exit the water
  2. Short Whistles
    Lifeguard needs your attention, Follow directions.

Nantucket Beach Safety Signs

Sudden Drop OffSudden Drop Off
The "shelf" or "drop point" of the Island rapidly begins to decline and waters become very deep within short distances from the shore.
Strong CurrentStrong Current
These are swift moving channels of water against which it is difficult to swim. Strong currents frequently accompany high surf and rapid tide changes and can be recognized as a turbulent channel of water between areas where waves are breaking.
When caught in a strong current -- Try to keep a level head, i.e., don't panic! Wave one or both hands in the air, and scream or call for help. Swim diagonally to the current, not against it.
High SurfHigh Surf
High Surf occurs mostly on the south shore. If you're uncertain of your abilities, don't go into the ocean during high surf, heed all posted high surf warnings! Your life could depend on it!
Dangerous ShorebreakDangerous Shorebreak
This is the condition when waves break directly on the shore. Shorebreaks are unpredictable and dangerous. They have caused many serious neck and spinal injuries to both experienced and inexperienced bodysurfers and swimmers.
Small waves can be very dangerous, too! Be sure to ask a lifeguard about the wave conditions at the beach you may be attending.
Be especially careful when the surf's up and running fast!
ellyfish stings can be quite painful and even life threatening for some. Should you be stung, see a lifeguard for minor first aid assistance. If necessary dial 911 and give your beach entrance number. In very severe circumstances, these stings cause anaphylactic shock in some persons - some of the severe symptomatic manifestations include shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest. IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION MAY BE REQUIRED!

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