Providing ocean safety and rip current awareness information to visitors is a top priority at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore). The following trip planning tips will help Seashore visitors stay safe in the ocean.
The Atlantic Ocean, located off the eastern side of the Seashore, produces a number of safety challenges for under prepared visitors every year.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t swim against the current. FLOAT DON’T FIGHT! Remain calm and swim across the current (parallel to the shore), slowly working your way back to the beach at an angle. If you are still unable to reach the beach, draw attention to yourself by waving your arms and yelling for help.
Lifeguarded beaches are by far the safest places to swim at the Seashore. There are four beach locations that are staffed with lifeguards from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day (9am-5pm). The locations of the four lifeguarded beaches are:
- Coquina Beach Access (Bodie Island)
Located across from the Bodie Island Lighthouse site
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach Access (Hatteras Island)
Adjacent to the Old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site
- NEW for 2019! Frisco Beach Access (Hatteras Island)
Located just south of Frisco Village
- Ocracoke Beach Access (Ocracoke Island)
1 ½ miles south of the Seashore campground or ½ mile north of Ocracoke Village
Ocean Safety Tips
- Swim at beaches patrolled by lifeguards.
- Bring something in the water with you that floats.
Rather than struggling through a rip current and exhausting yourself, bring something into the ocean that floats and easily float away from the rip current. Float don’t fight.
- Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool or a lake. Ocean swimming can be very physically taxing and may exacerbate underlying medical issues in older swimmers.
The majority (90%) of swimming-related deaths off the Seashore the last three years (2016-2018) involved males over the age of 50 years old. There were also three deaths of teenage males age 17-18. The average age of the 2 female victims was 71 years old.
- A perfect day on the beach doesn’t always mean that it’s a perfect day in the ocean.
Check the beach forecast before visiting the beach. If in doubt, don’t go out .
- Never swim alone. Swim with a buddy, and have adult supervision for all children. Have someone on shore keep an eye on you while you swim/surf/wade in the water.
- Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current. Use flotation and make safe choices.
- Be aware that the ocean presents additional hazards, such as shorebreak, high surf, and longshore currents. Learn more at www.lovethebeachrespectheocean.com .
- Avoid wearing shiny objects that may attract sharks and other fish.
- Avoid swimming where danger is present: in rough seas; inlets; around fishing piers and surfers; at night; or during thunderstorms.
Public Outreach Facts & Figures
- Park Rangers provide ocean safety tips before every interpretive ranger talk at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial. In 2018, ocean safety tips were given to over 76,000 visitors at interpretive ranger talks.
- There are over 200 ocean safety-related signs along the Seashore! Please read them.
- The Seashore posts the daily beach forecast and ocean safety information on its website and social media ( Facebook and Twitter ).
- The Seashore has partnered with Dare County and local agencies on an ocean safety awareness campaign called, “Love The Beach, Respect The Ocean.”
Text “Join OBXBeachConditions” to 30890 to sign up for text alerts on beach conditions.
While on the beach, search for and use the #LoveTheBeachRespectTheOcean hashtag on social media.
For more info, go to www.lovethebeachrespecttheocean.com.
The Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras National Seashore are beautiful places to visit. Please take some time to learn this important information to help ensure you create wonderful memories with your families.
For safety concerns not addressed here, go to the Seashore’s safety page at http://go.nps.gov/cahasafety .