Thankfully, it’s easy to practice smart ocean safety in Newport Beach. Follow these 7 tips, and you and your crew can enjoy your beach day confidently and, most importantly, safely.


Tip #1: Follow the Flags on the Lifeguard Tower


You may have seen the green, yellow, and red flags flying above Newport’s lifeguard towers. Lifeguards use these colored flags to quickly communicate current ocean conditions, so beachgoers can make more informed decisions when deciding to swim or not. The flag colors work like a traffic light, so are easy to remember. 

  • Green Flag:  Small waves. Rip currents may be present 
  • Yellow Flag: Moderate conditions. Larger waves. Rip currents are present
  • Red Flag: Hazardous conditions. Large waves. Expert ocean swimmers only!
  • Black Ball: No surfboards or skimboards due to crowds. Bodyboards are OK, except at the Wedge. 

For reference, most days in Newport Beach have green flag conditions. However, on yellow and red flag days, even we lifelong locals forego swimming and keep to the shoreline.

Newport Beach Lifeguard tower flags


Tip #2: Talk to a Lifeguard


We’ve all heard the adage “swim near a lifeguard,” but according to Newport Beach Lifeguard Chief Brian O’Rourke, the better rule of thumb is to “check in with a lifeguard.” This way, they can give you detailed insights on what to look out for on your particular section of the beach. If there is no lifeguard on duty, you can always call their number for a general beach report at (949) 644-3047. If you still feel uncertain about the day’s ocean conditions, follow O’Rourke’s #1 piece of advice: “When in doubt, don’t go out.”


Tip #3: Look out for Riptides, Not Sharks


If you’re anything like us, sharks are not on your wishlist of things to see when swimming in the water. Thankfully, sharks are rarely ever spotted in Newport, let alone the culprits of human attacks. What we should all be looking out for instead are riptides. In fact, “the number one cause of death on beaches are riptides” according to O’Rourke. Before we tell you how to get out of a riptide, let’s talk about what a riptide is and how to spot one.

Riptides are rivers of water that funnel out to sea. You’ll know you’re looking at one if you see brownish, churned up water that is typically mushroom-shaped. The river of water acts as a current that pulls swimmers deeper into the ocean. They are only dangerous if the swimmer tries to get out of the riptide by swimming directly towards shore. This strategy is dangerous because it tires the swimmer, increasing their risk of drowning. Instead, if you feel like you’re being pulled out to sea, the key is to NOT panic, and to instead swim PARALLEL to shore (which gets you out of the riptide with a lot less effort). If you do start to feel winded or scared, wave your arms above your head and a lifeguard will get to you shortly.

And remember: you can always talk to a lifeguard if you’re uncertain about the current day’s ocean conditions and they can recommend a good spot to safely enjoy the waves.

ocean safety tips


Tip #4: Keep Your Kids Close


On Newport’s large expanse of beach, it’s common for young kids to get lost and separated from their parents. To prepare for this possibility, O’Rourke suggests writing the number of the nearest lifeguard tower on the arm of young kids to help lifeguards reunite families more easily. He also reminds beach-going parents to not get too sucked into their phones or summer beach reads, in order to keep track of their kids’ whereabouts. Encouraging kids to stay waist deep in the water and avoid swimming near the groins (the rock structures that jut out into the ocean) are good reminders as well.


ocean safety for kids



Tip #5: Do the Stingray Shuffle!


Getting stung by a stingray is not something you want as a Newport Beach souvenir. To avoid this unwelcome gift from our resident rays, all you have to do is shuffle your feet when moving through the shallower parts of the ocean. This movement alerts rays to buzz off before you get anywhere near them, keeping you, your feet, and the stingray happy.



Tip #6: High-Five When You Dive


A great rule of thumb when diving under waves, body surfing, or falling off of a surfboard is to keep your arms in front of you. This easy tip will help you avoid head and neck injuries. Be sure to remind your fellow beach buddies of this, too!

how to stay safe in the ocean


Tip #7: Sunscreen Reigns Supreme


Mom was right when told us to put on sunscreen. Of course she was! It’s honestly great advice. And don’t forget to reapply. It’s annoying and a hassle – we get it – but red, peeling skin is not a look you want to be sporting at dinnertime. Trust us. We’ve made that mistake far too many times to admit and it ain’t fun.


Newport Beach ocean conditions


Have More Questions About Ocean Safety in Newport Beach?


We can’t say enough good things about our local lifeguards. If you have any questions or concerns, always feel welcome to call the lifeguard headquarters. The team there couldn’t be nicer or more knowledgable.

Benjamin M Carlson Lifeguard Headquarters,
70 Newport Pier,
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Phone: (949) 644-3047

NB Lifeguard Website


More than anything, Newport Beach is known for its soft sand and tame waves. There are miles and miles of coastline that are perfect for all levels ocean experience. But no matter your age or level of ocean experience, we recommend following these 7 tips to ensure that you and your crew can enjoy the beach safely and confidently!