Ocean Safety Tips

The ocean is a wondrous natural environment where humans and nature usually coexist in harmony. However, when people enter the ocean in any coastal destination there is always a small risk of injury. Swimmers and surfers are advised to be aware of their surroundings.

To reduce risk of injury and to help ensure the safety of our visitors, the New Hanover County public beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Fort Fisher are lifeguard protected from Memorial Day to Labor Day through advanced US Lifeguard Association Certified Ocean Rescue programs. Trained lifeguards continually monitor waves, water temperature, marine wildlife, weather changes, etc., to assess risk factors. They watch the water for anything of concern and are trained to take precautionary measures if anything appears dangerous or out-of-the-ordinary. USLA lifeguards are also trained as first-responders in case of emergency.

The following are precautionary measures that swimmers and surfers can take to reduce risk of injury while swimming in any ocean, including Wilmington’s Island Beaches.


*Do swim only when and where there are lifeguards on duty. Lifeguards are on duty at Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville beaches through Labor Day weekend.

*Do pay attention to and heed lifeguard flags and whistles. If you hear a lifeguard whistle it may be a warning to get out of the water.

*Do be aware of surroundings.

*Children should always swim with adult supervision.

*If you do not know how to swim, use a lifesaving device.

*Do swim in groups when possible; never enter the ocean alone.

*Do not wander too far from shore.

*Do not swim near piers, dredging sites or fishing vessels.

*Avoid ocean at dusk and dawn and twilight hours when marine life tend to feed.

*Avoid areas where fish are running in schools. If birds are diving for fish that could be a sign there may be an abundance of fish.

*Do not wear dangly or shiny jewelry.

*Avoid excessive splashing.

*Do not harass or taunt marine life.

*Do not allow pets in the water.

*Do pay attention and heed any warning signs along the beach.

*If the current pulls, swim parallel to the shoreline until it no longer pulls.

*Do not enter the ocean at night.

*Do not enter the ocean if you hear thunder or see lightning.

*Do not enter the water if you notice a potential danger. Report your observations to the nearest lifeguard or call 911 if there is no lifeguard on duty.

Following is information about the Ocean Rescue Programs for Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Fort Fisher:


Public beaches in New Hanover County (Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area) are lifeguard-protected through each town/organization’s highly regarded ocean rescue program. Following are the hours, days, and other details about lifeguard stations and flags. 


The Carolina Beach lifeguard season begins Memorial weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend.  The Town of Carolina Beach has 20 lifeguard stands. Lifeguards are on duty Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Friday through Sunday and on holidays. Carolina Beach is a USLA Advanced Certified Beach.  Lifeguards train and exercise daily for the safety of its citizens and visitors.

Source: https://www.carolinabeach.org/government/departments/fire-rescue/ocean-rescue

Carolina Beach Flags:

Green - safe swimming conditions

Yellow - moderate swimming conditions

Red - dangerous swimming conditions

Purple - dangerous marine wildlife (jelly fish, schooling fish, sharks)

Black/no flag – lifeguard not on duty


Kure Beach Ocean Rescue provides 10 lifeguard towers. Ocean Rescue personnel are on guard along its beach strand from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. For your safety, watch for these flags on the beach near lifeguard stations:

green flag

-Calm Water Conditions

yellow flag

-Use Caution While Swimming
-Choppy-Rough Surf Conditions

red flag

-Hazardous Water Conditions
-Use Extreme Caution
-Ocean Swimming only permitted up to waist deep

black flag

Lifeguard Not On Duty



Lifeguard service is provided in a designated swim area at the state park from Memorial Day through Labor Day, every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Please obey the warning signs and flags: A green flag indicates relatively calm conditions. A yellow flag indicates rougher conditions and to swim with caution. A red flag indicates severe conditions. Swimming is not permitted under red flag conditions.

Source: https://www.ncparks.gov/fort-fisher-state-recreation-area/feesfaqsrules


Wrightsville Beach Fire Department's Ocean Rescue Squad is responsible for ensuring public safety on the beach strand. The squad is led by an Ocean Rescue Director and a Lifeguard Captain who are also full-time firefighters/EMTs. The Ocean Rescue Squad employs 28 seasonal lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day, staffing 13 lifeguard stands from 10 a.m.  until 5:00 p.m. , seven days a week. The WB Ocean Rescue program is certified as an advanced lifesaving agency by the U.S. Lifesaving Association. The beach patrol includes all-terrain vehicles, a personal watercraft and two 4x4 trucks. All seasonal ocean rescue personnel are trained as both open water lifeguards and emergency medical responders according to ULSA advanced agency standards. Wrightsville Beach lifeguards are supported by full-time fire department personnel who are certified EMTs. Lifeguards also assist bathers by providing public information, recovering lost children, and enforcing beach regulations.

For Wrightsville Beach lifeguard stand locations:  http://www.towb.org/208/Public-Restrooms-Access 

Please pay close attention to the signal flags flown from lifeguard stands. The color of the flag indicates the water conditions observed in the area. Regardless of the color of the signal flags displayed, hazards may be present in the ocean at any time.

Wrightsville Beach lifeguard flags:

Green Flag

Low hazard. Conditions are calm. Normal care and caution should be exercised. 

Yellow Flag

Medium hazard. Moderate surf and/or currents are present. Weak swimmers are discouraged from entering the water. For others, enhanced care and caution should be exercised.

Red Flag

High hazard. Rough conditions such as strong surf and/or currents are present. All swimmers are discouraged from entering the water. Those entering the water should take great care. Wind and/or wave conditions are expected to support the development of very strong rip currents. This category implies that water conditions are life threatening to all people who enter the surf. There may be a high number of rescues on red flag days. 

Double Red

Water is closed to public use. 

Quartered (black and white)

These flags will be used in pairs to indicate the boundaries of a designated area where surfboards are prohibited. 





For information on ways to reduce risk of a shark encounter:

For information about dangerous currents: