I’m fortunate enough to have spent countless hours at the beach, either on the sand or in the water, and my favorite days are the ones that combine a little bit of both. Now that summer’s (finally!) upon us, you might be hitting the beach too. And while spending all day in the surf and sand can be a ton of fun, the beach also has some hidden health hazards. So how can you reap all the benefits of an awesome seaside trip while staying out of harm’s way? Below are eight tried-and-true ways to stay safe and feel great while making the most of any beach day.
8 Ways to Stay Healthy and Safe at the Beach
Plan accordingly. Whether I’m heading out for a walk by the water or a friendly round of volleyball, I always consider the time of day. I plan all my beach activities to either wrap up before 11:00 am or get started after 3:00 pm. That timing keeps me off the beach during the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are strongest. I encourage you to follow the same schedule so you can avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful UV rays.
Arm your skin against the sun. A little bit of vitamin D can be good for your health, so I don’t worry about 10 to 15 minutes of real sun exposure each day. But beyond that, a hat, an umbrella, and a T-shirt are mandatory. Sunscreen is also non-negotiable. I encourage you to apply a broad-spectrum variety all over your face and body before you get dressed, and then reapply it every few hours.
Remember, regardless of a sunscreen’s SPF number, the product will only protect you for a short amount of time. I rely on sunblocks that contain zinc. It’s a powerful ingredient that protects against burns. The one downside is that it can look chalky on your skin because its molecular structure is too big to be absorbed. So, look for one that goes on clear if don’t want to rock some summer warpaint.
Hydrate all day long. Even if you’re feeling great, dehydration—and too much sun—can take a sudden toll. Be sure to pack a big bottle of water for the day, and sip regularly to avoid headaches and overheating.
Pack the party. Just because you’re having a day at the beach doesn’t mean you have to lie around all day! Grab a paddle ball set, Frisbee, volleyball, football, or corn hole supplies. Playing games in the sand is a great way to strengthen your feet, ankles, and legs since the uneven surface forces your muscles to work harder. Be extra cautious before taking off your shoes; make sure you don’t see any glass in the area. Be on the lookout for hazards if you go for a run, too—jogging barefoot is another great way to build up your lower-body muscles, and can be a safer way to work out since running on the sand in shoes can set you up for a twisted ankle.
Follow the buddy system. If you’re heading out to participate in watersports (stand-up paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, surfing, etc.), grab a mate. Being in the water may feel relaxing, but it can also be dangerous—even if you consider yourself water-savvy. My husband Laird Hamilton is basically the surf guy, but even he won’t get in the water without at least one set of eyeballs (usually mine) looking out for him. Follow his lead and never leave the sand without notifying someone nearby so they can keep an eye on you.
Stretch it out. After all that activity, it’s extra important to give your body some love. Pack a large towel or yoga mat for a post-workout stretch. Even if your water and sand activities feel like pure fun, you’re likely working different muscles than you usually do, so gently stretching your body will help to prevent soreness.
Keep the cocktails to a minimum. At the risk of being a Debbie Downer, I’m going to encourage you to keep your cooler filled with water—and that’s it. Sun and alcohol may seem like a fun combo, but the pairing can actually weaken your skin’s natural defenses and lead to behaviors that increase your risk of sunburn, so imbibe with caution and stick to sober fun.
Leave behind footprints and nothing else. To keep our beautiful beaches safe for years to come, take every piece of rubbish you came with and feel free to grab an extra aluminum can or chip bag on your way out. Let’s all be stewards of this glorious place we inhabit so we can keep enjoying beach days long into the future.
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