How to Swim Through the Waves

Swimming in surf can be difficult and even dangerous if you don't know how to handle yourself. But with a little knowledge and practice, it can be great fun.


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    Never turn your back on the incoming waves. Or at least be aware of each wave approaching you.
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    Always swim where there is a lifeguard. Ask the lifeguard where it is safe to go in the water. If there are rip currents or other concerns, he will tell you where they are and how to avoid them. Also glance back at the shore once in a while to see if the lifeguard is trying to get your attention. If there are rip currents, the lifeguard may want you to move or get out of the water.
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    Be aware that the bottom may have deep and shallow spots. Be prepared to suddenly step up or down if the bottom is uneven.
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    When you are in shallower water, up to about thigh or waist deep, you can usually stay standing up and brace against the incoming waves. But as the water gets deeper, or the waves get more powerful, it is far easier to go under the waves.
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    The easiest way to let a wave pass is to duck under the wave. If the surf is relatively gentle, you can just squat down with you head a little below the surface, lean toward the incoming wave, and let the breaking wave or whitewater pass over you. Take a big breath, and just before the wave hits you duck down, wait for the wave to pass over, and come up for air. This should only take a few seconds.
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    If the surf is strong, you can dive under the wave down to the bottom and lie down on the bottom as the wave passes. You can also face the wave and lift your feet off the bottom and fall backwards toward the bottom and let the wave pass over you.
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    If you see an exceptionally big wave approaching,the best approach is to run straight towards it (before the wave gets too big to dive under), when you get close enough, take a deep breath, dive down to the floor of the ocean, and do an underwater pull-down. This will help to keep you down on the surface and to help you get through the wave. If you are close enough to the shore, you should just be able to get out of the water,this might be tricky due to the pull of the wave.
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    If you are a strong swimmer, or have fins on, you can just swim right out, submerging under each approaching wave. With practice, the waves will hardly slow you down.
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    If the surf is challenging for you, you will want to either stay in shallow water where you can easily stand up, or swim away from shore out past where the biggest waves are breaking.
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    If you find yourself caught by a wave and tumbled around, relax!. Don't try to fight it. The wave will let you go in a few seconds. Then surface and breathe and look for the next wave. Always be aware of the next wave that is coming. See Step 1. Once you are used to the feeling of being tossed around, it can be fun. The important thing is to relax, knowing that in a few seconds it will let you go. You might find it more comfortable to put yourself in a fetal position when this happens.
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    If you find yourself getting beat up by the waves, you either need to go into shallow water, or get away from shore past the waves.
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    If you ever feel like you are trouble, wave at the lifeguard, and ask for help. The signal for requesting assistance is waving one or two arms over your head.
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    To get back in if you are where the waves are breaking, relax, swim toward shore, and when a wave comes, take a deep breath, relax and hold your breath when the wave comes. It will push you toward shore a little. Then keep swimming, always aware of the next wave that is coming.


  • If you are in waist deep or deeper water, try diving straight into the oncoming waves and white water. Be careful not to dive down and hit the bottom.
  • When you are standing up and a wave is going to hit you, turn sideways and it won't hit you as hard.
  • If you are standing and carrying a body board or other floating thing, hold it to one side as the waves hit you. If you hold it between the wave and you, the wave may smack it into your face.
  • Keep an eye out for surfboards, body boards and such so you don't get hit by one. If you can't get out of the way, dive down to the bottom and let them pass over you.
  • Keep calm and relax.
  • When diving under a large breaking or broken wave you should dive to the seabed and dig your fingers into the sand to prevent yourself being taken back towards the shore.
  • If you are not very confident, try using a bogy-board. You can attach it to your wrist so if you get dragged under it will bring you up again.
  • Don't stand where the waves break. You're more likely to be knocked over by the wave!


    • If the bottom is coral or rock, you may want to find another place to play in the surf.
  • A rip current is like a river of current flowing away from the shore. If you are in one, you will not be able to swim directly back to shore, because it moves faster than you can swim. You will get tired trying to fight it. Either know how to spot a rip current, or ask the lifeguard about them. They are not a problem if you know how to deal with them, but you can get in big trouble if you don't know what to do. If the lifeguard sees you caught in one, he will often tell you to swim parallel to the shore for a way to get out of it.
  • If there is heavy shore break, that is, there are strong waves crashing on the sand, you might want to stay out of the water. If you chose to go in, wait for a lull, and get away from shore past the shore break as quickly as possible.

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Categories: Individual Sports