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If You're Going to the Beach, Never Bring This in the Water, Experts Warn

This summer staple could be very risky in the ocean.

As the pandemic slows down in the U.S. and we settle into the long-awaited summer, people across the country are eager to get back out there. Pools, beaches, and parks are sure to be packed all season long. However, just because you don't need a mask to stay safe doesn't mean you can shirk other important safety tips. Experts are warning that bringing this summer favorite into the water with you at the beach could actually be dangerous. Read on to find out what you should leave on the shore this summer.

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Don't bring large floats into the ocean.

Woman on unicorn float

As tempting as it may be to hop on a giant float and drift along the coastline of the beach, it's not worth trying. Experts told Good Morning America that the large floats that have become exceedingly popular over the last few years are a risky choice for the beach. "The ones that cause the most trouble out here are the giant unicorns and cartoony, multiple person flotation devices," David Vaughan, beach safety director of the South Walton Fire District in South Walton, Florida, told Good Morning America. "They get out of control."

As Vaughan explained, if the wind blows the wrong way, people can easily get carried out too far from shore. "The larger wind footprint in the sail, the more wind they catch, the faster they go, and so you can get carried from, you know 25 yards offshore," he said.

Ross Macleod of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in the U.K. told The Sun that using an inflatable float at the beach "could easily end in tragedy." Macleod added that "people don't appreciate these simply aren't designed for the sea." Since the floats tend to be lightweight, they can easily be taken by the tide. "They're basically massive sails which can whisk you miles out to sea in seconds," he said.

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People have drifted away on floats hundreds of times.

Woman on swan float

One family got a rough start to the unofficial beginning of summer on Memorial Day this past weekend. A young girl on a float drifted about a half-mile out to sea in Wales, Good Morning America reports. The family said the girl was connected by a safety line, but a gust of wind detached her and sent her drifting alone.

This is far from the first time someone has had to be rescued from a misguided float in the ocean. Floats have drifted dangerously hundreds of times in the U.S., and Macleod said the RNLI was called to rescue people on floats 479 times in 2018, which was double the number of calls they received the year prior. Vaughan told Good Morning America that in just the past week, he and his team had executed 15 different water rescues.

Wind plays a big part in how dangerous these floats are.

Woman with a smiley float

On a windless day, a large float may be harmless, but the moment it catches a breeze, you could end up out of reach from your loved ones. Vaughan advised anyone deciding to bring a float to the beach to "pay attention to the hourly wind forecast." Keeping abreast of which direction the wind is shifting toward throughout your beach day can help keep you safe, he noted. And per Vaughan, any winds above five miles per hour can be dangerous when on a float in the ocean.

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Watch out for rip currents.

Woman on a flamingo float

Whether you're swimming or deciding to risk it all to ride on a float, you need to watch for rip currents, Vaughan warned. He noted that these currents are especially dangerous for people who are not good swimmers, many of whom use flotation devices. If you get stuck in a rip current, think twice about leaving your float. "People often times misattribute the flotation device to the speed with which they're getting pulled out, so they'll ditch the flotation device and then blow themselves out on the cardio effort, and turn into a tragedy," Vaughan said. "So we always watch the rip currents."

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