Beach Safety

A trip to Bald Head Island’s beaches is a fun and memorable experience for everyone. Whether you are swimming, surfing, laying out, or playing in the sand, we want your time here to be as safe as it is enjoyable.  Make sure you review this information before heading to the beach!

Know your location in case of emergency – Know the address of the house you are staying and the closest beach access number to where you will be on the beach.

Break the grip of a rip – Know how to identify rip currents and how to get out of one if you are caught in one.  Learn more HERE and HERE. Beach forecast information, including current rip current threat info HERE.

Cover up holes and level sandcastles – If you dig holes or build sandcastles on the beach remember to cover them up and level them before you leave the beach.  These can be a hazard for beach walkers, sea turtles, and emergency vehicles.

Do not swim alone – If anything were to ever happen while you are in the ocean you want to make sure someone is there to help or get help.

Remember the power of shore break, do not dive headfirst and do not leave your back to waves – The power of shore break can drive swimmers into the sand causing neck and back injuries and sometimes even drowning.

Avoid swimming near people who are fishing – Swimmers should stay clear of these areas to avoid getting hooked.

Do not swim within 10 miles of a thunderstorm – 
“Know before you go.” Always check the weather before going out and always leave the water if you see lightning which can happen as far as 10 miles out from a storm.

Swim sober – Do not swim under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Impairment and swimming in the ocean do not mix.

Leash your boards – Surfboards and bodyboards should only be used with a leash, this way the user will not become separated from the board and the board is not a hazard to other swimmers.

Watch children and inexperienced swimmers – Designate an adult (who is undistracted) to supervise those who are swimming.

Sun exposure – Apply sunscreen early and often.  Apply 30 minutes prior to exposure and reapply after being in the water. Use a beach umbrella for shade from the sun and drink plenty of liquids (non-alcoholic) to avoid dehydration.

Ocean Wildlife – Be aware that stingrays, jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war, sharks and a variety of other marine life can pose hazards to humans.  CLICK HERE for more information.

If you are planning on visiting the east end of South Beach near the shoals or the west end of South Beach, near the shipping channel please view the information below.

Current Beach Forecast Beach Safety Videos Beach Regulations

What to do if you see someone in trouble:

  1. Call 911 before you do anything else! Getting rescue personnel on the way should be the first priority. Let the operator know you are on Bald Head Island.
  2. If you believe that you are a good swimmer and are willing to provide assistance, you can grab a flotation device and go in to help if you choose to. NEVER ENTER THE WATER TO CONDUCT A RESCUE WITHOUT A FLOTATION DEVICE!
  3. There are life rings stationed on poles along the beach strand that have been provided by the Village to assist those that choose to help in these situations.
  4. Swim close enough to the person so that you can toss them the flotation device, but not so close that they can grab you or you will become their flotation device. Talk to them and try to keep them calm until help arrives.
Click the image above to view this brochure. Brochures are available at Village Hall and Public Safety (map).

Areas of Extra Caution

Beachgoers should take extra caution when visiting the east end of South Beach at Frying Pan Shoals and areas along the west end of South Beach near the shipping channel.

East End of South Beach

The Village has shared the aerial photo to the right on social media that showed several folks wading in the shoals on the east end of South Beach.  The Village cautioned folks about wading in this area.  It is where our Public Safety Officers are called to the most for water rescues. Oftentimes the tide comes in and people find themselves in deep water before they know it. Beachgoers are advised not to go out further than they are prepared to swim back.   This area of the beach is most often reached by using Beach Access 39 or the private access at the Shoals Club (map HERE).

West End of South Beach

In addition to the east end, the Village has been notified by concerned citizens and representatives from the state port that the shoal is building up on the west end of South Beach near the terminal groin which is attracting beachgoers.  The problem is that when a ship (even a small ship) passes that area a hydrodynamic effect occurs which violently draws the water out from shore and back into shore (or vice versa).  This can be very hazardous for swimmers and even those on the shore. The Village has been notified that this can sometimes affect the entire shoreline along West Beach to the entrance of the marina. This area of the beach is most often reached by using Beach Access 9 or 11 and may affect the shoreline near Beach Accesses 5, 7, and 8 (map HERE).

The bottom left portion of the photo above shows several beachgoers out on the shoal far from the shoreline. Unaware of the rising tide, some beachgoers find themselves unable to swim to shore.
The shipping channel runs right along this area where West Beach and South Beach meet. Tide pools form in this area, making it a popular spot for beachgoers. It can be extremely dangerous when ships go by. HERE is a video a citizen took of a ship coming by.