Beach Safety Practices

Stinson Beach crowded with people on sunny day

Kirke Wrench

Much of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) borders the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Factors including rough surf, sneaker waves, rip currents and cold water can make coastal beaches in this area unsafe for beachcombing and swimming.

Stinson Beach is GGNRA’s only swimming beach and has a staffed lifeguard program part of the year. The park’s other beaches are not for swimming.

Whether you plan on swimming or just being near the water, follow these beach safety practices to ensure a safe visit.
  • You can be pulled into the ocean when standing in water as high as your knees. Non-swimmers should never enter the water past their ankles.
  • Visitors are encouraged to swim only when a lifeguard is on duty and should avoid entering the water alone.
  • Children should be kept close to adults at all times and should wear life vests if they are going to be in the water or near the shore.
  • No one should ever turn their back to the ocean while in or around the water.
  • Sneaker waves, large, unexpected waves can sweep across the beach without warning, sweeping people into the sea from rocks, jetties, and beaches. These sneaker waves can also move large objects such as logs, crushing anyone caught underneath.
  • Before visiting the beach, check the weather and ask a lifeguard about surf conditions. See National Weather Service for San Francisco Bay Area for weather and beach hazard updates.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol near the water because intoxication increases the risk of drowning.
Graphic showing escape route for swimmer from rip current by swimming parallel to shore away from current center
A diagram shows how to escape a rip current.


Rip currents can also be a hazard to beachgoers. Remain calm if you are caught in a rip current. Swim parallel to the shore instead of fighting the rip current. When you are out of the current, follow incoming waves to make your way to shore.

If you cannot escape the current, float or tread water to conserve energy. Indicate you need help by shouting and waving your hands high in the air.

Last updated: December 4, 2023

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Golden Gate National Recreation Area
201 Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123


United States Park Police Dispatch: Non-Emergency: 415-561-5505 Emergency: 415-561-5656

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