12 Must Read Sea Rules

by Claire Minnaar

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I absolutely LOVE the sea! Having lived in Hermanus for a few years now, we are at the beach regularly all year round. Winter time is walks on the beach and very little swimming. Summer is walking, swimming, playing games, building dams and generally spending hours on the beach.

But, having lived here a while now, I have watched visitors to Hermanus visit the beaches and you can often spot those who are visitors to our beach town. How? They “break” the rules when it comes to the sea.

There are no written rules about the sea, but having lived in a coastal town for a number of years, you learn what not to do as far as safety is concerned. In a small town like Hermanus, news travels fast and you hear the stories of what has happened to people on the rocks, at the beach or in the sea. You also learn from just being a regular beach goer.

I really do not think there’s enough information out there for people about the sea and I am hoping this blog post will help create some much-needed awareness around sea safety for you and your family.

The advice I give below can prevent people getting injured, so please keep a mental note of these tips or rules. Following the rules below can save lives, literally.

Sea Rules

  1. Respect the ocean. The sea is beautiful and fun to play in but it can be unpredictable, so you need to be aware of what it’s doing when on the beach.
  2. NEVER turn your back on the sea! This goes back to rule number 1 – respect the sea and expect the unexpected. A freak wave is always possible, trust me. If you are on a rock alongside the sea or are close to the seashore, do not turn your back – you will thank me for this tip. If you have kids playing and their backs are facing the sea, make sure to keep a watchful eye on what is happening behind them.
  3. Understand and know the currents at a particular beach. There are often signs on the beach providing an explanation on the currents and you can always check with the lifeguards on duty on rip currents in the area.
  4. Educate your kids on rip currents and what to do when stuck in a current: First instruction is to stay calm!
  5. Don’t take small children or anyone, for that matter, who cannot swim onto rocks close to the water’s edge where waves are known to hit. People have lost children and lives by doing this.
  6. Remain sober otherwise, do not swim and avoid being too close to waves and rocks if under the weather. Your judgment goes out and your strength and reaction times decrease with alcohol consumption.
  7. Check the weather before you head to the beach. You want to know if the weather is expecting to change. Weather affects the sea and waves. Plus, you definitely don’t want to be swimming when there’s lightning happening, would you now?
  8. Stay hydrated and fueled up! We are always told in the media to drink those 8 glasses or more of water per day. When you are at the beach and planning on being in the sea, this rule applies even more. So, make sure to be hydrated and not hungry. When you are dehydrated, it affects your strength and can affect your concentration. You need to be energized just in case. Plus, staying hydrated will help prevent sunstroke if you are planning on spending hours in the sun.
  9. Don’t mess or underestimate the waves. Big waves look fun and inviting, but can cause injury very easily. I have been hit by a wave before at Llandudno Beach. I tried swimming over it and just missed getting over and the wave slammed me into the ground below HARD. It was sore and scary and I didn’t go back into the sea for a while – my nerves were shot. I could have broken my neck had I hit the ground at a different angle. When I was under the water, I lost complete awareness of whether I was up or down because of the way the water was rushing around me – turbulent water is no joke. Surfers and body boarders will know this about waves – if you are visiting a beach for the first time, speak to the surfers, body boarders and /or lifeguards about the waves at the beach. Some beaches will not have dangerous waves, but some will and you want to be prepared.
  10. Check if lifeguards are on duty and swim close to the area they are stationed so you know there is another set of eyes on you and your family if you need it.
  11. Communicate with others. If you are heading out to the beach or somewhere close to the sea, make sure someone knows where you will be going and what time you are expected back. Knowing the whereabouts of someone who is visiting the beach has saved family members of mine years ago when there weren’t cell phones. Even if you have a mobile phone now, there may not be a signal in the area, so rather communicate your whereabouts regardless of whether you have a mobile phone or not.
  12. Use your mobile phone responsibly. This is very close to Point 1 and 2 above, but I want to stress this one because I see people constantly with a phone in their hand these days. If you plan on taking a photo when you are near the sea, make sure someone who is with you is keeping an eye on the water or, if you are on your own, make sure to be aware of how the water is behaving. Be careful when taking photos/video when on the rocks or close to the sea edge – the sea plays it’s own game and waves can build up quickly. I am speaking from experience – I was taking a few photos of the whales that visit Hermanus every year. I noticed in the corner of my eye that the water was building up momentum. I moved back a few seconds before the wave hit the rock and water came rushing over to where I had been standing. Had I not been aware of it, I could have easily landed up getting soaked and/or slipping on the rocks.


For information on what a rip current is and what to do if you find yourself in a rip current, visit the Rip current link on Wikipedia for a thorough breakdown of info.

Final Comment

Knowledge is power.  Teach your kids the rules and make sure you and your family stick to these rules. Please.

If you have any comments on the above or additional tips, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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