Beach Safety -Know your Flags

Summer might be over in northern Europe where I live, but that doesn´t mean we shouldn’t learn some beach safety. Fall and winter is the time where many of us “cold water surfers” travel to warmer climate, the same warmer climate countries that is the home for others. By this means, we could all use some knowledge in beach safety.

Everyone should learn how to stay safe in the water. According to The United States Lifesaving Associate, more than 80 percent of beach rescues are related to rip currents. These and other water related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and spot the dangers of water.


Learning how to swim is obviously essential if you plan on being near, on or in water. Being a good swimmer is a skill all SUP yoga teachers and stand up paddle boarders definitely should embrace, for your own sake as well as your students or a stranger in need. But… beyond swimming skills, there´s additional knowledge we should know as well around water safety. And that is the beach flag system giving information on safety measures around the water.

He who lets the sea lull him into a sense of security is in very grave danger.

– Hammond Ines, Novelist

Many SUP yoga teachers and practitioners, myself included, paddle and teach in lakes in addition to the ocean, but nevertheless, learning the common standards of beach flags is an essential expertise to be learned when visiting a beach anywhere in the world. The flags will give us information and assist in warning us about where and where not to swim, paddle, surf or put inflatable boards in the water.


There are two existing flag systems. One is offering information on ocean conditions, and the other about beach zoning. In this blog post the focus is on the beach flags, where the majority of these signs are universal.

Red flag
Rough conditions. Strong surf and/or currents. Do not enter the water. If you do, take great care.

Green flag
Even though no one can guarantee that any beach is safe under all conditions, green flag means there are no strong currents and swimmers can enter the water.

Yellow flag
General warning flag. Enhanced caution should be exercised. Moderate surf and/or currents. Weak swimmers are discouraged from entering the water.

Red over yellow flag
Recommended swimming area with lifeguard supervision. Area protected by lifeguards.

Orange – cone shaped windsock
No inflatables to be used on the water. Offshore winds present. Unsafe water conditions.
Indicate direction of offshore winds. Unsafe for inflatable objects in the water.

Red over red flag
Water closed to public use.

Purple flag
Marine pests present. Jellyfish, stingrays, sea snakes and other marine life are present in the water, and can cause minor injuries. Doesn´t mean sharks though, in case of sharks – double red flag.

Quartered flag
Watercraft area. A designated area or zone along a beach that is used by people with surfboards or other watercrafts.

Black ball flag
Surfboards and other watercrafts prohibited.


Big waves make it obvious to be careful to enter the water as a swimmer, stand up paddle boarder and surfer, if you´re not used to big waves. However, learning these flags is essential, because there can be hidden dangerous currents, harmful algae, or sharks. Learn the flag system to keep yourself and your students safe while enjoying the ocean.

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