Most importantly: learn to swim and learn how to surf. It is not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. To be safe, both adults and children should know how to swim with lifeguard class.
Stay within the designated swimming area and only swim on a lifeguard protected beach. Note: many beaches in the Caribbean do not have lifeguards. Check before you swim!
Never swim alone.
Use caution at all times and check local weather conditions . When in doubt, don’t go outside. In the Caribbean, tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes can greatly increase the risks of swimming, even if they never directly touch the island you’re visiting.
Swim sober. Water and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination. You need all three to be safe in, around and around the water. Don’t let the rum drink from a Caribbean beach be your last.
Clamp your surfboard or bodyboard to your ankle or wrist. With a strap, the user will not be separated from the floatation device. You may consider a detachable strap. A few drownings have been attributed to harnesses becoming entangled in underwater obstacles. A split strap avoids this problem.
Don’t float where you can’t swim. They should not use flotation devices to reach the open sea. If they fall, they can drown quickly. No one should use a flotation device if they are unable to swim. Using a harness is not sufficient because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the flotation device, even with a harness. The only exception is a person wearing a Coastal approved life jacket.
Don’t dive in headfirst, protect your neck. Serious, life-long injuries, including paraplegia, as well as death, occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and hitting the bottom. Bodysurfing can lead to serious neck injury when the swimmer’s neck falls down. Check for depth and obstructions before diving. Go feet first the first time. Be careful while bodysurfing, extending one arm in front of you.
Follow all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Ask a lifeguard about surf conditions before going into the water.
Stay at least 100 meters away from jetties and piers. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
Pay special attention to children and the elderly when you are at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Watch the aquatic life. Plants and animals can be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave the animals alone. In the Caribbean, corals can cause severe cuts and species such as lionfish and jellyfish can cause painful stings.
Make sure you always have enough energy to swim back to shore.
If you’re caught in a rip current, stay calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never fight against the current Instead, swim out of the current in a direction that follows the shoreline. When you get out of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – towards the shore.