Ocean Reef Resorts is welcoming many “new comers” as guests to Destin's crystalline, sugar white sandy beaches and green, jeweled toned waters this year. Perhaps it is because Good Morning America conducted a national survey last year that named Destin among “The Most Beautiful Places in America”. Maybe it's because National Geographic magazine listed the Emerald Coast as one of the top worldwide destinations to visit during the Autumn months. Whatever the reason, now the rest of the nation is discovering this long held “secret” and joining our esteemed, established guests to enjoy this area's most awesome amenity...the beach! This is significant since prior to this time a majority of families and friends who stay with us at our distinguished Ocean Reef Resort properties hail from only a handful of destinations. This change presents certain challenges but one of the most important is beach safety among those who are new to Destin and this part of paradise.
Most days are sunny here and the gorgeous gulf waters are placid, serene and crystalline clear. However, the weather can be less than perfect from time to time creating dangerous rip currents which exist everywhere in the world, especially during or after heavy wave action. A Beach Safety Flag System was instituted years ago to let beach goers know what kind of conditions they may expect in the water. A different colored flag is displayed at beach access points which are now Green for OK, Yellow for Caution, Red for Extreme Caution and Double Red for No Swimming allowed. Originally a Blue flag signaled OK conditions, perhaps as a reference to the fact that we have an abundance of “Blue Wave Beaches” which is the nation’s highest designation for beach quality. That may have been all well and good however hardly anyone knew what a blue flag meant, although most knew that yellow usually means caution and red serves as a warning. The system was made more user friendly a few years ago to appeal to common sense understanding. The following Beach Safety Flag colors should be noted every time you go to the beach. This quick reference could save your life or that of a loved one.
When double red flags are flying, conditions are deemed as unsafe even for strong, experienced swimmers and swimming is prohibited. You may swim when a purple flag is flying but beware that Jellyfish Stingrays or dangerous marine life have been spotted.
The main danger for swimmers along the coast is Rip Tides. These can be deadly because most people do not know what they are, do not know what to do if caught in one and usually panic. Most Rip Tides would not be problem for an average swimmer who knows what is happening. It is extremely important to know what to do if it happens to you.
Rip Tides are caused by the erosion of a sandbar that is underwater, usually by heavy wave action. These sandbars extend parallel to the beach, almost like underwater walls between the open gulf and the shore. Sometimes wave action erosion will cause a break in this submerged sandbar barrier and water accumulated on the shore side will begin to rapidly pour out into the open water like a river or stream. It does not flow out very far because the mass of water in the gulf quickly absorbs the relatively small amount of water released near the shore. Once absorbed it quickly stops, usually fifty to seventy-five yards out from shore. It does NOT pull you under or suck you down. Instead it rapidly pulls you in a fairly narrow chute away from the shore until it stops near enough to shore for the average swimmer to swim back. The best way to deal with a Rip Current is to not panic, realize what is happening and then start to swim parallel to the flow. In other words you want to swim to one side or the other of this fairly narrow water chute that is flowing out into the gulf. Usually the width of flow is only about 100 feet. Once you reach the side and are out of the flow you are no longer in danger. If you are unable to swim out of the flow, just remain calm and stay afloat until it stops usually less than 100 yards from shore.
Other common sense safety procedures should also be followed while visiting the beach for fun and play. Small children should always be closely supervised when near the water since even a little wave can knock them down. Life preservers should always be worn by anyone who wants to swim but is not very good at it, especially with regard to Destin Rip Tides. Also remember that our tropic sun is a lot hotter than it is in most parts of the country so be sure to use a Sun Block with a Protection Factor of at least 15. An SPF rating of 30, 50 or 60 should be used by anyone with fair skin or if you plan to be out on the beach most of the day. Also remember that clouds do not block out the rays that cause sun burn. Many visitors get sunburned on a cloudy day because it doesn't feel that hot and they don't use protection. After all, you would rather eat a delicious Lobster at one of our wonderful local seafood restaurants than resemble one! If you do get too much sun be sure to get some good skin cream with aloe that will cool your skin and make you feel better.
In an effort to aid in beach safety and the protection of our guests Ocean Reef Resorts has teamed up with local life guards and sponsored a much needed Water Board. For more information on this initiative visit the Destin Log article.
Here at Ocean Reef Resorts we want our families, friends and guests to be safe, happy and golden tanned. We have had the pleasure of providing our guests with wonderful Destin vacation rentals along with treasured memories since 1982. We now welcome our new friends and visitors to paradise. Just be safe!