Coastal Safety Tips

Along the California coast, there are dangerous rip currents which can lead to dire circumstances if you aren’t informed. The National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Weather Service (NOAA), San Francisco Police Department Marine Unit, and the San Francisco Fire Department are teaming up to help educate beach goers about the common hazards on Northern California beaches. These agencies are charged with protecting the people and resources of this coastline and are coming together to give the public information to help them stay safe while on the coast.

There have been several close calls in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) this past year, primarily due to rip currents. Although San Francisco open shorelines do not have traditional lifeguards, GGNRA does provide Ocean Rescue personnel who patrol Ocean Beach with the primary mission of informing and educating visitors about ocean risks. Swimming and wading are discouraged activities at non-life guarded beaches.

Visitors who desire to swim are encouraged to go to Stinson Beach where GGNRA provides on duty lifeguards between Memorial Day to Labor Day, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The warning signs posted at the entrances to our beaches are a constant reminder of the dangers our beaches present.

If you see something that you believe is an emergency, even if you’re not sure, call 911 and let us make the determination.


Coastal Safety Message:

Coastal Safety Message (click image to watch video)
Click image to watch video (hosted on YouTube) 


Safety Tips:

1. Swimming is strongly discouraged at Ocean Beach due to the dangerous rip currents. Wading to your knees is allowed, but please use extreme caution, as people have been swept out to sea in 3 feet of water, disappearing in seconds.

2. Rip currents are the number one risk at most beaches. If you find yourself in a rip current, remain calm; do not fight the current, swim parallel to shore and then in towards the beach. Also, even though it may be warm out on the shore, the water can be cold, which can cause hypothermia.

3. Stinson Beach is safe for swimming as it has lifeguards.

4. Keep pets on a leash and do not swim in after them if they get swept into the sea. Most dogs will get out of the water, only to watch their handler get rescued.

5. Stay off of rocks in and around the shore.

6. While boating, ensure your safety gear is in working order and that every person onboard has a life jacket that fits. Carry a VHF radio, know the waters and expected weather, and file a float plan with a friend.

7. Educate yourself on rip currents, local demographics, and sneaker waves.



Here are the TOP 10 TIPS from our park rangers to plan your next visit:

1.    All of us here want you to get back home safely after a fun weekend- its our #1 priority!

2.    Be Patient And Flexible

  • The North Coast is a big place, with a major city: roads and parking lots are going to be jammed packed- plan extra time and extra patience! 

3.    If you see something, say something

  • You can help others by reporting unsafe situations to first responders

4.    Stay On Trails and Shores

  • Rip currents, rock scaling, and walking off trail can be dangerous: injuring more visitors than any other natural feature each year. Avoid tragedy by recreating in the park responsibly. 

5.     Swimming is strongly discouraged at Ocean Beach due to the dangerous rip currents.  Even shallow water can be dangerous.

6.     Take Safe Selfies- watch your picture and your back!

7.     Be An Early (or late) Bird 

  • Avoid crowds and traffic: visit the park during non-peak hours—before 9 am and after 3 pm. 

8.     Warning signs posted at the entrances to our beaches are there to help you make safe decisions on the coast.

9.     Appreciate the urban landscape

  • Use your best judgement with personal belongings; avoid leaving significant valuables in unattended vehicles.

10.    Recreate responsibly  The health and safety of people visiting and working in the park is our number one priority. 


Click the button at the top of the page to access printable safety tip sheets.