Last week as I was driving home I noticed a news helicopter on the horizon, above the bay, flying lower than usual.
I looked to my right as I passed the pier and saw another one hovering dangerously close to the ocean and I immediately knew something was up.
I parked my car and ran onto the beach to see 10-15 lifeguards searching the waters about 50 yards offshore. A boat was searching out past the breaking waves and a few divers bookended the lifeguards to the north. Eventually one of the divers frantically waved his arms signaling to the lifeguards that he found something.
As it turned out, that something was a man who had gone missing and drowned. The guards pulled his body from the water and tried desperately to resuscitate the man. Unfortunately, after a long struggle, the guards lost him as he had simply been under the water without oxygen for too long.
This tragic event is a blatant warning to everybody that the lifeguards are going away for the winter, and we all need to be much more careful out in the water.
Ocean safety is something I take very seriously and have studied my entire life. As a child I was heavily involved with the junior guards and, outside of school and science studies, I actively accrued knowledge about marine biology and ocean safety.
Even the strongest swimmers can cramp up or have a run-in with a sea creature and nobody should take their own safety for granted.
Unlike scuba diving, where the golden rule is, “Never dive alone,” surfing and recreational swimming can be and usually is done alone all around Newport. I’m not saying you should always have a buddy in the water, but it never hurts to let somebody know where you’re going or even choose a spot where people are watching the ocean, in case of emergency.
Most people are aware of the dangers in the water when the waves are big, and for the most part, people are cautious not to get in too deep if they’re not experienced in such big waves. However the dangers that are harder to see, such as rip currents and undertows are just as dangerous, if not more.
Obviously the ocean and alcohol don’t mix well, so please stay out of the water if you’re drinking.
It’s always awful to hear about deaths in our waters, and I always feel like it’s something that could have been prevented with some more ocean education.
I really do encourage everybody to enjoy the ocean. Just don’t forget that it can be a very dangerous place. With the proper training and a little bit of preparation you can minimize risk and maximize enjoyment.
Be careful out there this season, and have a terrific winter at the beach.