If you love the water and sports, nothing is more enjoyable than grabbing your surfboard, heading out into the ocean, and catching a wave back in.

What might not be so enjoyable, however, is accidentally getting swept out to sea or getting hurt while participating in watersports.

Whether you enjoy surfing, jet-skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, or some other type of watersport, you should always consider how you’re going to stay safe while in the water. Getting lost or injured at sea is an experience that nobody wants to go through.

No matter what your favorite watersport is, use the following tips to help keep yourself safe.

Always have a spotter

If possible, have someone on the shore that can watch you while you’re out at sea. This way, if you do accidentally get swept off your surfboard or your kayak tips over, they’ll have an idea of where you’re at. If needed, they’ll be able to send for help.

If you’re unable to have a spotter on shore, always let someone know which beach you’re going to, how far out you’re planning on going out, and what time you’re planning on coming back. If you’re not back on time, they will be able to call for assistance.

Wear a life jacket

Depending on how strong of a swimmer and how far out you’re planning on going, you might want to consider a life jacket. If you’re going out on jet skis, a kayak, canoes, etc, it is generally required that you wear a life jacket. That way, if you do end up in the water, you’ll be able to stay afloat.

Since life jackets can constrict your movement while surfing, most surfers only wear one if they are going very far out. As an alternative, some surfers wear wetsuits, which provide buoyancy and can help you stay afloat if needed.

Avoid going out in storms

Stormy weather brings rough waves, which increases your chances of getting swept out to sea. Always check the weather and water conditions before you head out to enjoy a day in the ocean. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, swimming in strong currents or rough waves is risky.

If you’re out at sea and notice a storm starting to roll in or notice the waves getting choppier, it is best to head back to shore as soon as possible. You should also avoid going out right after a heavy storm; the waves can still be rough.

Use a GPS system

If going out on a jet ski, canoe, or kayak, you might find yourself traveling further than you originally intended. It can be a bit disorienting when you look back towards the shore and realize that you don’t recognize any of the landmarks.

Something you might want to consider is taking some sort of GPS accessory, such as these GPS systems for jet skis. Don’t use a standard GPS system. You’re going to want something that is waterproof, durable, and able to provide navigation instructions while in the water. You also want something compact enough to carry.

Don’t go out groggy

A mistake some people make is hitting the waves when they’re tired or sick. If you’re feeling groggy, you’re more likely to make a mistake while out at sea. Not to mention, certain watersports, such as surfing, take up quite a bit of your energy. If you’re already tired before getting on your board, you may find yourself wiping out and drifting out to sea.

Always get plenty of sleep the day before a day at sea. You should also make sure to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps you feel more alert and improves your overall health.

Check your equipment

Another way to stay safe while out at sea is checking your equipment over for any concerns before heading out. For example, if going out on a jet ski, you’ll want to make sure that it has had regular maintenance and has plenty of gas.

Look for anything that is out of the ordinary. For example, dent in a surfboard has the potential to lead to a crack, which has the potential to lead to a broken board while out in the ocean. The good news, however, is that most surfboards can be fixed at a relatively inexpensive price.

Wear sun protection

A day out at sea means you’ll be directly exposed to sunlight for several hours. If you’re not careful, this can lead to intense sunburn. Sunburn can lead to symptoms such as dehydration, intense blistering, heat exhaustion, and loss of consciousness. Exposure to the sun can also lead to sun poisoning, which has more intense symptoms.

To prevent this, always wear protective gear such as a UV wetsuit or a sunhat. You should also wear sunblock, which lowers the risk of sun damage on your skin. If you feel like your skin is starting to burn, head back to shore.

Know your limits

Finally, you should always know what your limits are before heading out to sea. For example, if you’re not a strong swimmer, you’ll want to avoid surfing or scuba diving. Or if you’re feeling tired, maybe you decide to skip that day instead of heading out.

Knowing what your limits are can help you stay safe. Be realistic with yourself and your abilities. No matter what watersport you’re interested in, if you’re a beginner, it is better to go out with someone more experienced for the first few times. You’ll want to master the basics before going out alone.

Final thoughts

Before you hit the waves, you should let someone know where you’re going, grab a GPS, put on sunscreen and get plenty of sleep! No matter what your chosen watersport is, it is important to find ways to stay safe while out at sea. Getting lost or injured while away from the shore can be a scary experience — preventative measures now and having a plan in place can help keep you as safe as possible.

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