Guam: Safety comes first when swimming in waters
As serene as Guam beaches are, you can never be too safe in our island’s waters. Unfortunately, dozens of visitors and locals get swept away in the island’s powerful currents. Just because waters look calm, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions to stay safe. Follow these tips to enjoy Guam’s waters to the full.
SUN PROTECTION UV Index
•Use the UV Index forecast to help protect yourself from harmful Ultra Violet exposure. (A higher UV Index on a scale from 1 to 11-plus means more skin-damaging UV radiation is reaching the earth.)
•Check the UV Index — published daily in the Almanac weather section of the Pacific Daily News.
•When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible.
•If you can see light through the fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Be aware that covering up doesn’t block out all UV rays.
•Sunscreen is a product you apply to your skin for protection against the sun’s UV rays. However, it’s important to know that sunscreen does not provide total protection against all UV rays.
•Sunscreens are available in many forms — lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wipes and lip balms, to name a few.
•When choosing a sunscreen product, be sure to read the label before you buy it. Many groups, including the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend products with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 30. The SPF number represents the level of protection against UVB rays provided by the sunscreen — a higher number means more protection.
•When using an SPF 30 sunscreen and applying it thickly, you get the equivalent of a minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending 2 minutes unprotected.
•People often do not apply a thick enough layer of sunscreen, so the actual protection they get is less.
•Be sure to apply the sunscreen properly. Always follow the label directions. Most recommend applying sunscreen generously. When putting it on, pay close attention to your face, ears, hands, arms and any other areas not covered by clothing. If you’re going to wear insect repellent or makeup, apply the sunscreen first.
•Be generous. Ideally, about one ounce of sunscreen (about a palm-full) should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of the average adult. For best results, most sunscreens must be reapplied at least every two hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating.
•Products labeled “waterproof” may provide protection for at least 80 minutes even when you are swimming or sweating. Products that are “water resistant” may protect for only 40 minutes.
Source: American Cancer Society
WATER SAFETY TIPS
•Stay within the reef line.
•Never enter the water unless you know about hazards, water depth, rocks and currents.
•If you’re caught in a current, don’t waste energy fighting the current. Swim with it diagonally until you no longer feel the current pull, then swim to shore.
•Swim parallel to the reef, and if you see a spot that looks safe, try to swim back in. If the water is rough or you don’t see a good spot, wait for rescuers.
•When surf is 6 feet or higher, inexperienced swimmers should stay out of the water, and experienced swimmers should exercise extreme caution.
•Never swim, dive or surf alone.
•Wear gloves before putting your hands on anything. There are a few dangerous creatures such as stone fish, lion fish, crown of thorns and eels that you might want to watch out for.
•If you are an inexperienced snorkeler, it is best recommended that you use a life vest in the water at all times.
•Make sure you have some type of protection on your hands and feet if you
•Check warning signs or flags indicating hazardous conditions. Don’t go out just before or after a typhoon, which usually brings along hazardous surf conditions.
•Never go out after someone who is swept over the reef.
•If unexpected situations occur, do not panic.
•Never leave a child unobserved around water.
•Keep a phone nearby so that you can call 911 in an emergency.
•Know if a trained lifeguard is on duty.
•Recognize and follow posted rules.
•Learn basic water safety, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
•Don’t go in the water under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Some of the beaches have pavilions that can be reserved for gatherings. Call the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Park Reservations division at 475-6288. There is a minimal deposit to reserve your space, as well as a refundable mandatory cleaning deposit fee.
Be advised that all beaches under the purview of the local government are alcohol-free zones. Public parks are also secured daily.
•Asan Beach Park offers an enormous grassy field perfect for holding large-scale functions or simply exercising. It is also a War in the Pacific National Historical Park, as it provides valuable history as a key location in the World War II.
•Gov. Joseph Flores Beach Park, better known as Ypao Beach, has sand volleyball courts, pavilions with barbecue pits, and walkways for walkers, runners and joggers.
•East Hagåtña Bay is a popular site for commercial and private personal watercraft operators. Fishermen also can be seen here casting lines and nets, known as talayas, during certain fishing seasons.
•Family Beach is at Cabras, off the Glass Breakwater in Apra Harbor. There’s a picnic area, and it’s a good place from which to see the harbor’s activities.
•Gabgab Beach is located on Navy Base Guam. Easy access to great snorkeling and diving.
•Gun Beach and Fafa’i Beach can be reached by a rough, unpaved road at the end of San Vitores Road, after the entrance to the Nikko Hotel Guam. At the end of the road is Gun Beach, walk around the point to reach the more secluded Fafa’i Beach. Snorkelers and divers should exercise caution as the current here can be deceptive.
•Matåpang Beach Park can be reached by turning left in the Holiday Inn Resort Guam parking lot. Calm waters make this beach popular.
•Nimitz Beach is in Agat; there are pavilions and a park-like experience.
•Ritidian Point, home to the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. No barbecue pits or fires allowed and you must take out your own trash. Although the beach is beautiful, the currents are dangerous.
•Tagachang Beach is in Yona. It’s rocky and secluded, so take precautions and watch out around you. Lock your car and wear shoes.
•Tepungan Beach in Piti, near the Piti Bomb Holes, is a popular snorkeling and dive site.
Respect for people and the environment is the best way to keep the beach a great place to go.
Guam’s beachgoers are allowed to bring dogs, picnic lunches, balls and other outdoor toys. Dogs should be kept on a leash and any droppings should be picked up — not buried. The balate’ and other sea animals are protected in marine preserves. Clean up all trash after your beach visit.