Recreational Safety Home


Life Guards
Personal Flotation Devices


Seas and Swells, Wave Size, Anecdotes And Tide Pools, Playing in the Spray, Russian Roulette Morro Bay Style


Boating in the Bay, Boating in the Ocean, Morro Bay’s Rough Bar, Fog, Suction


Falls, Falling Objects, Stinging Nettle, Poison-Oak, Mountain Lions, Ticks, Rattlesnakes, Poison-Hemlock


How Far Can Waves Reach, Mortality Statistics, Off The Road Vehicles, Mountain Biking, Miscellany


Principals of Water Safety

Life Guards
The chances of drowning are a million times less when you swim in supervised areas.
Life guards performed 37 rescues at city beach in 2008!

City beach runs from the big dirt parking lot, just east of the Rock, to Little Morro Creek. In 2008 life guards ran one or two towers: week-ends starting Memorial Day week-end; daily from June 14th to Labor Day; and then week-ends again to September 14th.
In addition to the seasonal life guards, city beach is a good place to start surfing for the following reasons. City beach is the most popular surfing place around Morro Bay; most of the time there are other surfers in the water and in the parking lot. Rescue personnel can get there fast; and there is a powerful rip you can practice using.

For those of you who come to the area to attend college, at the start of the school year the surf is so small you can often wade to the breaks, which are gentle (spilling or rolling) in character – ideal to learn on. As winter arrives the surf becomes more challenging; it gets much bigger, farther from shore, and plunging or dumping, especially when offshore winds stand the wave crests up.

Hypothermia (Low core body temperature)
In order for us to function, our bodies have to keep our brain temperature at 99.6 degrees. Death from chilling occurs when the brain temperature drops to around 90.
When the air around us is still and about 70 degrees, the heat produced by the metabolism of our bodies easily maintains body temperature. However, water conducts heat 25 times faster than air. For example, 80 degree water can produce hypothermia from emersion for 24 hours!
The September 55 to April 65 degree water we have at Morro Bay cools a lot faster. An elderly person who falls in the water on a hot sunny day at Morro Bay gets chilled so fast that in minutes they lose the ability to swim, and die in as little as an hour!
If there is any chance of falling in, you should wear a life jacket. If it is certain or likely you’ll get wet, wear a “wet suit” or a “dry suit”. Wet suits are used by surfers, and can be purchased at the local surf shops. Dry suits are available from marine specialty stores in Monterey and Santa Barbara, or through the internet. Westmarine.com is a reputable supplier.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

The time to decide what PFD to use is before you leave home.
The time to put on your PFD is before you step into a boat.

Properly worn, life jackets help delay the onset of hypothermia by insulating the chest and neck, and decreasing the need to tread water (holding as still as you can preserves body heat); float your body higher, which makes it easier to breath, to see and be seen; and keeps your body on the surface after you can no longer swim. Life jackets are also made orange or yellow for high visibility. An excellent source of information is the West Marine article “Personal Flotation Devices” at Westmarine.com.

A common mistake is to rely on seat cushions, life rings, or life vests “available in case we need them”. If you end up in the water you probably won’t be able to get the jacket on, even if you are lucky enough to get to one. After a little while the cold numbs you, and you stop hanging on.


The author modeling a sailors’ PFD. Dark blue so it won’t show dirt, it automatically inflates, showing yellow, if he falls in the water. Other features include sturdy D rings for hoisting and a crotch strap to keep his face out of the water if unconscious.

All content copyright Dr. Curt Beebe. Please do not use without permission.