Swimmer in ocean.

Testing the waters: Tips for ocean swimming safety

Follow these ocean swimming safety tips for when you are out in the open water swimming.

Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a pool: You have to watch out for currents, waves and other natural dangers.

Ocean swimming basics

First things first: Strong swimming skills are essential in the ocean's unpredictable environment. Never go into the ocean if you can't swim. And never swim alone – even if you are an experienced swimmer. A swimming buddy can signal for help if needed. Also learn:

  • Where to swim. Always swim in a designated ocean swimming area supervised by lifeguards. Stay close to shore so you can be seen and rescued quickly if needed.
  • When to swim. Daytime is the safest time for ocean swimming. Visibility is low in early morning hours and at dusk, and predatory animals in the water tend to move closer to shore at night.
  • What to do during severe weather. If you see an approaching storm, it's best to get out of the water until the storm subsides. Get out immediately if there is lightning.

Ocean swimming risks

The ocean is a complex body of water with some natural dangers. Before swimming away from shore, understand these hazards:

  • Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water. Instead of fighting them, swim parallel to the shore with the current, and angle yourself slowly back to land.
  • Large waves are more powerful than you might think. Dive under one before it breaks. And remember: Never turn your back to the ocean when you're in the water. Rogue waves or undertow can happen at a moment's notice.
  • Shore breaks happen when a wave breaks on land, which can knock swimmers down. To avoid serious injury, stay away from beaches with rocky outcroppings or a steep slope into the water.
  • Inshore holes are long trenches that run parallel to the beach. They can surprise waders who are expecting shallow water. Make sure your children can swim, and stay with them in any water.

Remember: A sunny day doesn't necessarily mean great ocean swimming conditions. Check your local surf forecast before heading to the beach to know what to expect.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

Start a quote

Select a product to start a quote.

Find agents near
you or contact us

There’s one ready to offer personalized service to fit your specific needs.

Related articles

Travel tips for spring break trips

Brush up on your travel smarts before your next getaway.

Boating safety tips

Help stay safe on the water by being prepared with these boat safety tips.

Boost your home pool safety

Use these pool safety reminders, from guidelines for the height of a pool safety fence to pool safety equipment to keep on hand, to make sure your swimming pool is ready for the season.

Stay safe on water skis and jet skis

They're fun recreational activities on the water, but you still have to obey the rules.