A special blue flag hoisting ceremony was held on Friday, 30 November at Kleinmond’s Main Beach, Hawston and Grotto beach in Hermanus to mark the beginning of the Blue Flag season in the Overstrand.
Blue Flag status is a well-respected international award, ensuring that each Blue Flag beach is not only beautiful and safe but also environmentally friendly, socially responsible and have accessible facilities for the disabled. The accreditation is awarded for one season at a time and if conditions at the beach deteriorate, it can be withdrawn.
Grotto’s Blue Flag status kicked in on 1 December and remains effective till 31 March 2019. In the case of Hawston and Kleinmond, this status will come into effect on 14 December until 13 January 2019. Castle Beach in Pearly Beach has been granted a Blue Flag pilot status for a second year which, if it prevails, may see Overstrand boasting four fully fledged Blue Flag beaches by 2019. The pilot period for Castle Beach will be from 14 December 2018 to 13 January 2019.
Kleinmond councilor Grant Cohen applauded all stakeholders for the different roles they played in ensuring the retention of the status. “Blue Flag status provides the necessary assurance to beach goers that the beaches are kept clean and all the facilities are well managed.
Cohen thanked Blue Flag beach coordinator, Lauren Rainbird, for hearing their pleas to provide Kleinmond with their own beach friendly wheelchair that will ensure everyone gets to experience the wonderful beach and sea, with the assistance of lifeguards.
Deputy Mayor Elnora Gillion said Blue Flag beaches are of great importance from an economic and tourism marketing point of view as tourists are drawn to Blue Flag beaches because of the quality and environmental standards that they represent.
“With tourism being one of the world’s fastest growing industries and, more particularly, the highest revenue generator for the Overstrand we understandably take extra pride and care of our coastal resources,” she said.
“We urge our communities to use beaches and its facilities responsibly and to understand the importance of promoting sustainable practice and conservation of our marine and coastal environments for the advantage of present and future generations,” she added.
Grotto has one of the most accessible beaches in the country for people living with disabilities where they can make use of the beach wheelchairs. In addition, Grotto beach holds the record of being awarded Blue Flag status for the most consecutive years in the country.
Beach safety tips:
While everyone is very excited about going to the beach this summer, it is important to ensure that you are well informed on staying safe in the ocean, says Deon Langenhoven, station commander of the National Sea and Rescue Institute (NSRI) Hermanus station 17.
“One of the characteristics of our beaches are the rip currents. It is important for everyone to understand what rip currents are, how they can be identified and what to do when caught in one.
“If you stand on the beach looking towards the ocean and somewhere in the water there is a portion that is nice and flat with no breaking waves, it is most probably a rip current. Bathers often mistake the calm water for an ideal spot to go and swim. That is where the danger lies, because that is where the rip current sits. The water seems calm because of the rip currents pulling the waves and swells back to sea and prevents them from breaking,” explains Deon.
According to him rip currents dissipate as soon as it gets to the backline of the water. The closer to the backline the weaker the current becomes. “If you are caught in a rip current raise your arm and help will come,” he says.
“Do not try and swim back to shore, but rather swim at a 90˚ angle out of it or let the rip current take you and swim diagonally out of the rip current towards the breaking waves on the side and make your way back shore. If you can’t or if you are too tired, rather let the rip just take you back to shore. The most important thing is to just relax and stay afloat.”
Because rip currents in the Overstrand are erratic, it is difficult to pinpoint specific areas where they occur.
- Swim only when and where there are lifeguards on duty and where signs indicate that it is safe to swim;
- Always swim between the red and yellow flags;
- Never swim alone;
- If you find yourself in trouble, raise your arm to attract the lifeguards’ attention;
- If you see someone in trouble in the sea, alert the lifeguards or find help. Don’t attempt a rescue and put your own life in danger as well;
- Don’t consume alcohol and swim;
- Don’t dive from tidal pool walls.
Swim only at low tide when no waves are breaking over the walls.
During peak holiday season, the following beaches will be manned by lifeguards daily from 09:00 to 18:00: Hawston, Grotto East, Grotto West, Voëlklip, Kammabaai, Onrus, Langbaai, Kleinmond, Kleinmond Lagoon, Palmiet, Betty’s Bay Main Beach and Silver Sands, Pringle Bay Main Beach and Castle Beach (Pearly Beach).