I'm looking for a Find a

Beach Safety Guide

Beach Safety Guide

Stay Safe at the Beach!

When you're heading to a beach, we urge you to appreciation the water and visit a lifeguarded areas. On a lifeguarded beach there are prepared experts to help keep you safe.

They'll be close by if something happens, in or out of the water. Just look for lifeguarded beaches with our free RNLI Beach Finder application, to ensure you and your family have a safe and fun outing to the coast.


Signs and Flags

Prohibition sign

Red and white prohibition sign

This is a prohibition sign – don’t do it!
Red and yellow flag

Red and yellow flags

Lifeguarded area. Safest area to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables.
Black and white flag

Black and white chequered flags

For surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other non-powered craft. Launch and recovery area for kitesurfers and windsurfers. Never swim or bodyboard here.
Red flag

Red flag

Danger! Never go in the water under any circumstances when the red flag is flying.
Orange wind sock



Orange windsock

Indicates offshore or strong wind conditions. Never use inflatables when the windsock is flying.


Understand Rips

Rips are strong currents running out to sea, it can quickly take you from the shallows out of your depth.

Rips are especially powerful in larger surf, but are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.

They can catch even the most experienced beachgoers out, so just ask lifeguards for some advice. They will show you how you can avoid rips, but if you do happen to get caught in one:

  • stay calm – don’t panic
  • if you can stand, wade don’t swim
  • keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float
  • raise your hand and shout for help
  • never try to swim directly against the rip or you’ll get exhausted
  • swim parallel to the beach until free of the rip, then make for shore

If you see someone else in trouble, inform the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

Understand the Waves

Waves are great fun, but can also be very dangerous. They all have different characteristics depending on the beach your visiting and conditions – understanding how they work will keep you safer.

Waves are formed by the wind blowing across the surface of the sea. How steeply a beach slopes (or ‘shelves’) will also affect the size and type of wave. 

Spilling Waves

Spilling waves are ideal for beginner board riders as they break consistently. Start off in the shallow white water before progressing to deeper water and unbroken waves as you become more advanced.


Dumping Waves

Dumping waves or heavy shore break should be avoided. These waves break quickly with a lot of force making them dangerous for beginners.

Rip diagram



Cornwall's Pirate FMPirate 70sEscape to Cornwall radioPirate Education and Training


© LoveCornwall.com, from Pirate FM

Pirate FM cannot be held responsible for the content of external links.