It’s hard to believe that Saturday is the beginning of Labor Day weekend. We’ll have all hands on deck for one last weekend before we drop to our reduced staffing levels for the fall.
After Labor Day, the beach goes to its off-season rules. Off-peak season means reduced crowds. Because of this, surfers are not restricted to designated areas, except for staying 300 feet from the 61st and 91st street fishing piers. Surf camps, defined as teaching surfing to three or more people, are no longer restricted to Monday to Friday before noon (although they still require a permit). Most importantly, fall means great beach conditions with very small crowds.
That said, we still need to focus on the Labor Day weekend.
If you or your family is heading to the beach during the weekend, it looks like we may have some pretty rough conditions. This is a great time to review the beach safety precautions.
1. Swim near a lifeguard. Our lifeguards are all certified to the standards set by the United States Lifesaving Association. They are good and have been through a great deal of training to be able to sit in those towers. You are responsible for your safety and that of your family, but they provide an extra layer of protection and can help with pretty much anything.
2. Stay away from the rocks. Near the rock jetties, we always have some type of rip current. On red-flag day it’s stronger than usual. The current will pull you out. Obey the signs that indicate how far you should stay but remember these are a minimum for calm days. The rougher the water and more current there is, the farther away you should be.
3. Don’t swim alone. Another person may not be able to save you, but they can call for help if you get into trouble.
4. Feet first, first time. Don’t dive in head first when swimming in murky or unknown water.
5. Alcohol and water don’t mix. Fifty percent of drownings in open water are alcohol-related. Also remember that most of the beaches in Galveston prohibit the use of alcohol. The Galveston Police Department, Park Board Park Security Detail, and the Galveston Island Beach Patrol Tourist Oriented Police program will all be out checking. The only in-town beaches where alcohol is permitted are East Beach (Apffel) Park and Porretto Beach.
6. Obey Warning Signs and Flags. We maintain more than 220 safety signs along the beach front as well as a flag warning system on the towers, park entrances and stations along the seawall. All are meant to help you stay safe.
More safety information can be found on our website at www.galvestonbeachpatrol.com.
This weekend is a time for families and friends to spend time together. The Galveston beach front is the perfect place to do this.
Be sure and let the guard in your area know if you need anything. Have a safe weekend and enjoy yourself!
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.