Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Staying Safe at Rest Bay, Porthcawl - Rest Bay Rip Currents

Here's our guide on how to stay safe when visiting Rest Bay, particularly during the winter months when there are no lifeguards patrolling the beach:

The main danger at Rest Bay is a rip current found at the point to the left of the bay. This rip catches out the unwary. 

The rip at the point is strongest on spring tides and whenever there is large surf at the beach. 

The rip is a result of all the water being pushed into the bay naturally trying to escape. It does this at the edge of the bay running out along the rocks at the point. For more info on rip currents read this guide. 

Please be aware the rip current at the point can be equally as strong on the outgoing tide as the incoming tide and a number of rescues / assists by lifeguards in the summer take place on the outgoing tide.

There is also a strong lateral current in the direction of town on the incoming tide due to water moving up the Bristol Channel. The lateral current is strongest during spring tides. The combination of the rip current and the lateral current produce a strong current on an incoming tide in the direction of town. This current is very strong during spring tides.

When there are no lifeguards present stay on the golf club side of the lifeguard station for the incoming and outgoing tide (approximately 4 hours either side of high water). It is important to pick a reference point on the land and regularly look up to check your position as it's surprising how quickly the current can take you in the direction of town, particularly when you're focused on looking out to sea for the next set of waves. Good reference points to use: golf club buildings, lifeguard station, slipway, flag poles or malcs cafe - once you've chosen one of these reference points keep an eye on it and and try not to drift past it. If you drift past the lifeguard station and slipway catch a wave into the beach (before you're swept around the point) and walk back down towards Pink Bay before going back in the sea.

The rip can be seen in the aerial picture below flowing out along the point:

Once you get swept around the point there is nowhere to safely get to shore especially when there is large surf breaking onto the rocks. Stay with your board and signal for help to people on locks common - if you don't have a board float on your back. Don't be tempted to catch a wave into the rocks as they are particularly sharp and rugged at the point. As a minimum you'll get some cuts and grazes but in big surf you're likely to take a hammering trying to get out. If you signal for help someone will see you in trouble and contact the coastguard who will call the lifeboat. If you're able to, try to paddle out further to sea so the lifeboat doesn't need to come close inshore to rescue you. 

If you see someone in difficulties dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard (there is a SOS phone on the ramp side of the lifeguard station - mobile phone signal at Rest Bay is generally poor). Don't be tempted to try helping the person yourself as you could get into trouble too.

For further info on tides read more here. (Spring tides have the highest tide height figures when looking at a tide table. Normally around or close to 10.0m for Rest Bay).

The map below shows the danger zone at Rest Bay:

When there is large surf or a strong current at Rest Bay inexperienced surfers, body boarders and swimmers may find the conditions at Sandy Bay (Coney Beach) more suited to their ability. At Coney beware of a strong current at low tide.

Winter storms normally remove a significant amount of sand from the top of Rest Bay and some summers the beach doesn't fully recover. Conditions can be dangerous at high water due to submerged rocks particularly when there is surf. Inexperienced surfers, bodyboarders etc. should avoid Rest Bay 2 hours either side of high water due to potentially dangerous conditions. The red line in the image shows the area of exposed rocks normally covered by sand during the summer months.

The rip current / lateral current at Rest Bay accounts for around 98% of rescues and assists by lifeguards in an average summer season.

Less experienced surfers, bodyboarders and swimmers are advised to stick to lifeguarded beaches during the summer months. This is particularly important if you're unfamiliar with the dangers at the beach you're visiting. The RNLI produce an excellent beach safety guide with further information on staying safe at the beach: RNLI beach safety guide. To find your nearest lifeguarded beach visit: goodbeachguide.co.uk 

During the summer months lifeguards play a proactive role preventing incidents occurring and zone the beach into different areas to keep people safe. Red and Yellow flags mark the swimming and bodyboarding area which is patrolled by lifeguards whilst black and white flags mark the surfing area for people on surf boards and other hard craft. If you see the red flag flying don't go in the water. At Rest Bay there is a bylaw making bathing prohibited whenever the red flag is flying.

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