In this article, Dr Rob Brander from the University of New South Wales – the university studies beach hazards and how to avoid them – points out four main dangers that a swimmer can be faced with on the beach.
Rip currents are the biggest hazard on beaches during rainy season, and if you swim outside the area marked by red and yellow flags there is a chance you will get caught by one.
Rips are very strong and narrow currents of water, moving directly from the shore cutting through breaking waves. This is key to spotting the hazard. Rips often look like a safe spot, a dark gap in the line of breaking waves. Don’t let it mislead you: what looks like a safe place is actually a dangerous trap.
If caught in a rip, the main thing to do is not to panic, the rip won’t pull you under the water. Second, don’t try to swim against the rip directly to the shore, the rip is too strong even for a trained swimmer. Instead, swim sideways, parallel to the shore to get out of the current and only then turn to the beach. If other people are present on the beach, raise your hand to give a signal of being in trouble.
One of the main hazards are waves, which in Phuket can reach up to threemetres during low season. Unlike the rips, waves are easily visible, but this doesn’t prevent some beach-goers from entering the water without checking whether it is safe or not. Remember to spend some five minutes watching the sea before proceeding further.
The main hazard is huge plunging waves that curl over and powerfully collapse on the beach surface. Dumping waves are the leading cause of spine injuries on Australia’s beaches. If caught in a wave remember to stretch your arms forward to protect your head and spine.
Danger number two: sneakier waves that can form once in a while in some areas. It looks like a sudden rushing wave that reaches far further than others. This wave is powerful enough to overwhelm a person and carry them into the ocean. Thus, never turn your back to the sea and always spend some time to check the wave pattern.
Sharks sometimes hit the headlines of local news websites, but in real life they never appear anywhere near Phuket’s beaches. This doesn’t mean that the local fauna is all friendly. At least two types of creatures can pose a threat to a swimmer here: Jellyfish (including Box Jellyfish) and Bluebottles (a poisonous siphonophore also known as Portuguese Man-of-War). Don’t forget sea urchins and other organisms can also be quite nasty, though not lethal.
The best piece of advice is do not touch any marine life and watch your steps on the shore and in shallow water. If stung by something see a specialist as soon as possible.
Nearly every year rock fishing results in one or more deaths in Phuket. Rocks are exposed to high waves and are very slippery, getting out of the water (if you fall off a rock) can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
All the recommendations provided for waves apply to rocks as well: check the wave pattern before coming close to the water, never turn your back to the ocean (sneakier waves can come out of nowhere), mind every step you take.
There is an additional point worth mentioning regarding rocks. Remember that some of them are covered by water and can thus pose a danger to unsuspecting swimmer or a person willing to dive from a cliff. Notwithstanding, diving from a cliff in Phuket is a bad idea at any time of the year.
This article references material found on www.scienceofthesurf.com