The ocean is a wonderful place to swim—if you are careful. Swimming in the ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Wind, waves, the change of the tide, the slope of the beach and other factors can cause strong currents to be present in the water even on the calmest days.
Ocean conditions can change from day to day and from hour to hour. Before going in the water, spend a few moments watching the waves. Wave patterns are a good indicator of the presence of currents and where deep water and other "surprises" are located. Know what to expect before you go in the water.
The best way to stay safe while swimming is to swim at a lifeguarded beach. Lifeguards are specially trained to provide emergency assistance and can answer your questions about beach safety. National Park Service lifeguarded beaches are listed below. If you are recreating outside of the national park, there are other lifeguarded beaches in the Outer Banks.
Areas in-between lifeguarded beaches are patrolled by National Park Service Rangers and local rescue squads as staffing and schedules allow.
Before heading to the beach, check the daily NOAA Rip Current Hazard Forecast and see our Ocean Swimming Safety page for more swimming safety information.
There are five beach locations along Cape Hatteras National Seashore that are staffed with lifeguards during summer months from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 9 am to 5 pm, seven days a week.