It’s rare that Dubai waters are dangerous and not suitable to swim in. They’re usually calm, warm and clean. But this month six people died on the weekend of March 4-5 when waters were rough, full of rip currents and huge waves. ‘There are a lot of lifeguards in the surfing community, and rather than watch this go on we ask for them to volunteer for free and make the beaches safer,’ says Daniel van Dooren from Surf Dubai. 'We’ve wanted to try and make the beaches safer for a long time but in light of the recent drownings we can’t wait any longer.’
Most problems occur when people get caught in currents which take them out to sea, believes Daniel, but the currents themselves don’t hurt people – it’s when they panic and try to swim against the current that they find themselves in trouble. ‘Surfers use rips currents to get out back when there are big waves, they’re not dangerous at all if you know what you are doing,’ says Daniel. ‘The first thing inexperienced people try and do when stuck in a rip is swim or paddle back into the beach. Then they panic, and lose all of their energy, before they know it they’re under the water and no one is there to rescue them.’
To educate Dubai’s bathers and swimmers Daniel and his business partner Scott Chambers will be offering a number of free two-hour sessions to teach people about the dangers of swimming in the sea and useful information about how to spot currents, what to do if you see someone out in the water in distress and how to bring them back into the beach with or without a surfboard. ‘We can’t give people regulatory certificates at the end of the course, but we can educate them and this could make a huge difference,’ he says.
The sessions are open to everyone who wants to learn more about how to avoid dangerous situations, whether an experienced sea swimmer, surfer or casual bather. Surf Dubai are calling for the more experienced community, such as trained beach lifeguards, regular lifeguards and surfers to take a more active approach and help teach seminars and give advice, so that together we can make Dubai waters safer than ever.
The next free surf rescue session is on March 26 at Umm Sequim Beach. If you miss this one don’t worry, more sessions are set to take place later. To attend or volunteer, visit www.surfingdubai.com or call 050 504 3020.
Beach safety tips
• Swimmers should stick to the designated areas for swimming.
• Know your flags: red means no swimming (but check with the lifeguard as there is often a patrolled area that is fine to swim in). Yellow means caution and green means it’s fine to swim.
• Don’t swim alone.
• If you’re in trouble wave and shout to shore.
• Never attempt a rescue unless you are trained.
• Call 999 or 998 for the emergency services if you see someone struggling.
How to avoid dangerous rip currents:
Usually there will be waves breaking either side of a rip. The rip itself will look like mushy still water and will be rushing out to sea. The ideal situation is not to go anywhere near the rip, and swim in an area far away.
If you do get caught in a rip and find yourself being pulled out to sea: DON’T PANIC. If you panic you’ll lose all your energy. To get out of a rip swim parallel to the beach (to the right or left) and when you are out of the rip you can swim to shore. If you are out of energy make yourself float to get your breath back, then you can start swimming again.