The information on this page consists of general knowledge and guidelines to help make sure your time spent on Oak Island is enjoyable, fun, and most of all, safe! When conditions warrant a special warning, we will place that information on our Forecasts and Warnings page. We also fly flags at the station to warn of current and/or pending conditions.
Rip and Longshore Currents
One of the most common dangers to swimmers, especially on south-facing beaches such as Oak Island, is rip and longshore currents. They can sometimes be predicted, and we will have that information on this web site, but they can form at any time and it is extremely important that you and your children know how to escape these currents, and how to save the lives of others. The currents themselves will not pull you under water, but panic can make what could have been a minor annoyance into a life-threatening emergency.
Many of the calls for help we receive are to help locate missing persons, most often children. In the vast majority of cases, they are not in the water at all, but have drifted several blocks away from their family “camp site” on the beach by the normal water currents. Oak Island has about 12 miles of beach, and honestly, while beautiful, it all looks about the same. With few distinguishing landmarks, it can be hard to tell exactly where you are, resulting in lost people. As the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words” is very true here. When you arrive at the beach each day, take a quick family photograph, making sure that faces, and especially clothing, of each person is clearly visible. Should you need our help locating someone, these photographs can be a huge help to us and the Oak Island Police Department and Oak Island Fire Department.
While certainly fun in swimming pools, and even as an emergency flotation device, inflatable rafts pose a serious risk when used in the ocean. We receive many calls about these rafts when the wind carries them out to deep water. In many cases, we end up rescuing only the raft because (fortunately) nobody was on it. We investigate all reports of inflatables being pushed offshore because sometimes people are still on them! Once these toys get past the breakers, their size and surface area act like a sail. Throw in a little wind out of the North and all of a sudden you are sailing the ocean blue like Blackbeard! While Oak Island does not have any prohibitions against the use of these rafts in the ocean, Oak Island Water Rescue high recommends against it, especially on a windy day, and even more so when the wind is blowing from the beach towards the ocean.