(June 14, 2013) While the men and women of the Ocean City Beach Patrol scan their areas and the water in front of them for signs of danger, trouble sometimes brews behind their stands.
Recent high school graduates are coming to Ocean City to enjoy their newfound freedom, sometimes allowing the excitement of the atmosphere to impede their judgment. At no other time of year do we see more teenagers chase each other down the beach and into the ocean, only to end up diving into shallow water.
Beach patrol members respond to spinal injuries every year, but these injuries are preventable.
Beach patrol Rule No. 1 is, “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s in the stand.”
Rule N0. 2 is, “Check the water depth with your feet, not your head.”
Our ocean water is not as clear as pool water, and we don’t have the depth printed along the edge in big black numbers like it is at the local swim club. While lifeguards try to stop accidents before they happen, even whistle blasts sometimes don’t catch the attention of those who are horsing around.
Surf rescue technicians are often left cringing in their stands, hoping that those who just dove into the foot-deep water will pop up unscathed.
While 40 percent of spinal injuries occurring in the surf are caused by people diving into shallow water, the majority result from body surfers and body boarders riding waves that are breaking too close to shore. We encourage people to keep their arms stretched out in front of them when body surfing and to avoid riding waves that are breaking close to the sandbar or beach.
Taking responsibility for your own actions and spreading caution about spinal cord injuries is the greatest form of prevention we have. Many people do not realize that wet sand is just as un-yielding as concrete.
Most people would never think of attempting a flip in the middle of a parking lot. However, many of these same individuals will attempt the same maneuvers on the beach or into a few inches of ocean water.
Use your head to protect your spine and think before diving or riding breaking waves into the beach.