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North Shore Kauai

Beach Safety on Kauai

Hawaii's world-renowned, beautiful beaches can be extremely dangerous at times due to large waves and strong currents—so much so that the state rates wave hazards using three signs: a yellow square (caution), a red stop sign (high hazard), and a black diamond (extreme hazard). Signs are posted and updated three times daily or as conditions change.

Visiting beaches with lifeguards is strongly recommended, and you should swim only when there's a normal caution rating. Never swim alone or dive into unknown water or shallow breaking waves. If you're unable to swim out of a rip current, tread water and wave your arms in the air to signal for help.

Even in calm conditions, there are other dangerous things in the water to be aware of, including razor-sharp coral, jellyfish, eels, and sharks, to name a few.

Jellyfish cause the most ocean injuries, and signs are posted along beaches when they're present. Reactions to a sting are usually mild (burning sensation, redness, welts); however, in some cases they can be severe (breathing difficulties). If you're stung, pick off the tentacles, rinse the affected area with water, and apply ice.

The chances of getting bitten by a shark in Hawaiian waters are very low; sharks attack swimmers or surfers three or four times per year. Of the 40 species of sharks found near Hawaii, tiger sharks are considered the most dangerous because of their size and indiscriminate feeding behavior. They're easily recognized by their blunt snouts and vertical bars on their sides.

Here are a few tips to reduce your shark-attack risk:

Swim, surf, or dive with others at beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk, and night, when some shark species may move inshore to feed.

Don't enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding.

Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels, or steep drop-offs.

Don't wear high-contrast swimwear or shiny jewelry.

Don't swim near dolphins, which are often prey for large sharks.

If you spot a shark, leave the water quickly and calmly; never provoke or harass a shark, no matter how small.

The website www.oceansafety.soest.hawaii.edu/index.asp provides statewide beach hazard maps as well as weather and surf advisories.

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