When vacationing anywhere with ocean tides and currents, it is important to understand the beach conditions prior to visiting. This will help you plan your time at the beach to be fun and safe for the entire duration of your trip. Along 30A specifically, weather changes rapidly, affecting the surf, so it's imperative that you know what to look for in advance.
The easiest thing you can do before going to the beach is understanding, and obeying, the conditions flags. Walton County makes it relatively fool-proof to know what the waters and current are with their conditions flags. See the image below (courtesy of https://www.visitsouthwalton.com/beach-safety/) for an easy-to-understand break down of what each flag means.
It is important to note that failure to comply to conditions flags can result in injury or death. These guides are to ensure your safety, not ruin your fun.
Next, it's always good to get an accurate weather prediction for the day, as this will affect conditions and tides. Simply using your phone's weather app is usually not the most accurate source of information. We recommend following NOAA Weather predictions, Accuweather, or tuning in to the weather station. Destin, Santa Rosa Beach, Seacrest, and all of 30A are notorious for pop-up storms that last for about 1-3 hours, disrupting the surf and current conditions. However, these always pass and after a few hours, the surf will resume to its usual for the day.
It's also a good idea to know how to recognize dangerous tide patterns in the event that the water conditions have changed after the flags for the day have posted. Rip Currents claim lives every year. Tragically, many of these deaths could be prevented by individuals knowing what thee currents look like and staying out of the water.
Look for these signs of a Rip Current:
Darker color surf, indicating deeper water
Murky brown water caused by sand stirred up on the bottom
Smaller unorganized waves, alongside more evenly breaking waves over a sand bar
Waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip current
If you do find yourself caught in a Rip Current, it's important to stay calm and to remember that the Rip Current itself cannot kill you: panicking, getting-overtired, and not knowing how to swim will. If you don't know how to swim, or are not a strong swimming, we highly recommend following conditions flags exactly. If you are an average swimmer, the main thing to remember is to float as best you can, and conserve your energy. If handled correctly, the current will carry you as you float in a large circle, and wash you back to shore on the outside of the current. If you are a strong swimmer, do not swim straight back to shore. Swim to the right or left until you get out of the main current, pulling you out into deeper water. Once you have swum parallel to the shore to the point that the current is no longer taking you out to sea, you can then swim for the shore. See the diagram below.
The final thing we want to make note of is that South Walton only provides lifeguards at Regional Beach Accesses from March 1 - October 31. Outside of these dates, you are primarily responsible for your own safety. \
The main take away is that the more you know and prepare for, the more likely you are to have a a fun and memorable visit to South Walton and all of 30A. While you're here, check out 30A Pontoon Rental [(85) 220-6400] for the best pontoon rentals in the area. They have luxury Tritoons, standard and double-decker with a waterslide. They also just added a 400hp Speed Boat to their rental inventory. Check them out here: www.30apontoon.com