Skip to main content

Beach Safety Tips

The Oregon coast is a great place to visit. You can look for seashells, build a sandcastle, or explore a tide pool. The beach can be a lot of fun. Make sure you share the fun with friends and family, and never visit the beach alone. Having an extra set of eyes may help you find more cool stuff, and an extra set of hands will make that sandcastle even bigger. Take a beach ball along, and someone to play catch with! If you keep your buddies—or mom and dad—close enough to catch a beach ball, that’s smart. They can hear you if you call out. Having a buddy can help you stay safe. Enjoy your visit, and make sure to talk to your family and friends about staying safe at the beach.

Ocean and Beach Safety

  1. The ocean is not a bathtub. Don’t leave kids in the ocean by themselves to play and they should be within arms reach.
  2. Never swim alone.
  3. Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  4. Don’t turn your back to the ocean.
  5. Calm waters can be an indication of rip currents, horizontal currents, trenches, and other hidden dangers.
  6. Watch for rip currents. If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  7. Look up the tide tables of when it is high tide and low tide.
  8. Don’t climb on drift logs that are in the water or wet sand. Logs can be slippery and ocean waters can plop it down on top of you.
  9. Don’t climb rock faces or cliffs edges.
  10. Don’t dig tunneling holes or deeper than your knees. Sand holes can collapse. Fill it back in so it isn’t a hazard to others.
  11. Plan ahead for your hike. Know the trail, bring water and equipment if necessary.

Permanent Rip Currents:

Play a minimum 200 yards away from rip currents and any rock formations.

  1. North and South of Haystack Rock
  2. Chapman Point
  3. North side of Indian Beach
  4. Straight out from Gower Street Beach Access
  5. Straight out from Ecola Creek
  6. Any large rock face will have a rip current and/or strong current. 

What to do if you’re caught in a rip current.

These are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves or where a there is a stream or out flow into the surfline. The majority of ocean rescues made by lifeguards are due to victims struggling in rip currents.


  1. If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  2. Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  3. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  4. If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
  5. If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard and/or pull the semaphore. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Do not leave the scene until first responders arrive, speak to you, and give you the ok to leave. First responders need to gather information for rescue operations.

Instructions in case of an emergency – call 9-1-1

  1. If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard and/or pull the semaphore. If a lifeguard is not available, call or have someone call 9-1-1.
  2. Try to remain calm. Have someone spot the person in trouble or keep your eyes on the person. Give clear explanation of your location and stay on the line with the dispatcher until you are told otherwise.
  3. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape by having the victim swim out of the rip current, in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, direct them to swim towards shore.
  4. Do not leave the scene until first responders arrive, speak to you, and give you the ok to leave. First responders need to gather information for rescue operations.
  5. Only professionally trained rescuers should attempt in-water rescues.


Remember, many people drown or become victims themselves while trying to save someone else from a rip current. 

Rules for Beach Fires

All beach fires must be a minimum of 50 feet away from seagrass or other combustible materials (driftwood, seawall, etc.). The fire must be attended at all times. Do NOT burn driftwood as it can smolder for several hours after it has been extinguised, later causing a fire to ignite.

The best way to extinguish the fire is by pouring water over it until all the red embers have gone out.

DO NOT cover remanants with sand as people and pets have been burned walking over the sand. 

image of a bonfire on a beach with text saying, do not cover beach fire with sand                                         Don’t bury hot charcoals in sand. While sand might extinguish the flames, coals can smolder for up to 24 hours. Sand locks in heat, making smoldering coals even hotter.  Coals should be extinguished by drenching them in water, waiting five minutes and drenching them again. The most risk occurs when hot coals are buried in the sand, creating a hidden danger.

Beware of Rip Currents:

Rip currents are strong currents of water that rush out to sea. They are stronger than even the best swimmer. Rip currents can form on any beach that has breaking waves.  If you look closely, you can see a rip current.  It will have dark muddy water and be very choppy. You might see foam and other debris floating out to sea. If you see a rip current, stay away! They are very dangerous.

If you are ever caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Relax, and swim parallel to the beach. Don’t try to fight it. If you have trouble swimming, tread water and call for help. Parents! Keep your kids nearby when they’re playing near the ocean.

Don't Climb on Drift Logs:

Logs on wet sand or in the water are especially dangerous. The ocean is strong enough to pick up even the biggest log and plop it down on top of you. If you see a log in the surf or on wet sand, stay off it.

Beware of Sneaker Waves:

Watch out for “sneaker waves.” Sneaker waves are unpredictable and appear suddenly. They can rush up high on the shore with enough force to knock you down and drag you out to sea. Keep one eye on the ocean.

Be Careful on Cliffs & Rocks:

Ocean spray and heavy rains can make rocks and trails slippery and unsafe. Stay behind fences. They are there for your safety. When hiking, make sure you are wearing the right shoes and stay on marked trails. Stay away from cliff edges. They may not support your weight. And, don’t stand under overhanging cliffs.

Stay off Rocks & Jetties:

Rocks and jetties may seem like great spots to view the ocean, but they can be very dangerous. Barnacles living on rocks can give you painful cuts and scrapes if you slip and fall.

Jetties are there to keep ships safe, not for people to walk on. The big waves that crash against rocks and jetties can knock you into the ocean or into gaps between rocks.

Beware of Incoming Tides:

Tide pools can be so interesting that you might lose track of time.  Make sure you know when the tide is coming in so that you don't get stranded.  Free tide tables, available at state park offices, information centers and many shops and motels, list the times of high and low tides.

Understanding Tsunamis:

There are two types of tsunami warnings that you need to be aware of: a distant event and a local event.

With a distant event, you will be alerted by sirens located throughout the city.  Proceed by foot and follow the posted evacuation route signs to higher ground.

With a local event, you will feel a powerful earthquake.  Take immediate cover until the earthquake subsides, and then go immediately to higher ground by foot using the posted evacuation routes.

Supervise Children:

Stay near your children and keep your eye on them.  Never let children play in the water unsupervised.  Play close to the lifeguard station but atleast 200 yards away from Haystack rock. There are rip current to the north and south of it.

Lifesaving Program:

Effective February 2024, the Cannon Beach Fire District through an agreement with the City of Cannon Beach provides lifeguard coverage for the main beach areas associated with the City of Cannon Beach. The lifeguards provide a myriad of emergency and non-emergency services that are essential to maintaining safe and desirable recreational areas associated with the ocean shore. Lifeguards are on the beach daily from 11:00 am to 7:15 pm Memorial Day through Labor Day. Beginning April and lasting through September, they will operate on weekends only, weather and personnel permitting.

Know your Ability in the water:

Don’t paddle out farther than you can swim back.  Ocean water is very cold.  The water averages 55 degrees Fahrenheit and hypothermia is a danger.  Do not go swimming in the ocean without a wetsuit.  A wetsuit is critical and required surfing equipment.