An Angry Gulf of Mexico Knows No Boundaries

An Angry Gulf of Mexico Knows No Boundaries

30A Beach Safety and the Four Color System

Each year, enthusiastic vacationers flock to the beautiful beaches along the Emerald Coast.  If your family is planning to have fun frolicking on the sandy beach or riding the waves, it30A South Walton Beach Safety is important to understand Florida’s color-coded beach flag system.  Ocean conditions are monitored daily by local beach safety officials. Once the risk level has been assessed, a colored flag is posted at each public beach access.  All people are expected to honor the flag system to help keep everyone safe.

The flag system utilizes four colors, three of which are similar to our universal traffic system.  Green means the Gulf waters are fairly calm and conditions are safest to enter.  A Yellow flag means use extra caution when entering the water.  Red means the water is angry and you should stay less than knee deep.  Double Red flags mean the ocean is very dangerous and the water is closed to the public.  When a double red flag is present and you choose to enter the water, beach safety officials have the authority to ticket you.  A Purple flag means there is marine life present in the ocean, such as jellyfish.  As an example, if you go to the beach on a cautionary day when there is marine life present, you will see a yellow AND purple flag flying.  Use the following website to monitor daily beach conditions in Walton County Florida:

The Potential Natural Consequences of Entering the Ocean Against Your Better Judgment

It’s a fact that some people enjoy testing the waters on a red flag day, choosing to be dangerous and go up against the massive waves.  While the thought of fooling mother nature can be tempting, making unsafe choices regarding the Gulf of Mexico puts many people at risk.  From 2011 to 2016, there were 353 water rescues in Walton County alone.  While there are SWFD Beach Safety lifeguards at each Regional Beach Access and Walton County Sheriff’s Department beach patrol is available to assist in an emergency, we can help officials by making the safest choices for ourselves when it comes to having fun in the water.   

We are all responsible for assessing our own skills, abilities and actions when it comes to enjoying the ocean.  Regardless of the flag color, always be ready for the unexpected.  If you get caught in a rip current (a narrow and forceful current that can carry you far out) swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current.  If you know you can’t swim, stay close to the sand.  When you have been drinking alcohol, stay out of the water.  Know your limits and choose one of the following beach activities listed below on a red flag day. 


  1. Fly a kite
  2. Play Frisbee
  3. Play soccer in the sand
  4. Have a picnic Lunch
  5. Build a sand castle
  6. Meditate
  7. Read a book
  8. Take a nap under an umbrella
  9. Schedule a beach bonfire and watch the sunset (permit required or hire a company)
  10. HAVE FUN!


  • Before entering the beach area, note your beach access in case you need to call for help, especially at accesses where there are no lifeguards. Take a picture of the posted access point with your phone.
  • Adhere to the Beach Flag System.
  • Go to the beach in pairs, so someone else is with you if you need help.
  • Fill in the holes after playing in the sand. This keeps the sea turtles safe and limits injuries for people walking who may not see the holes, especially at night.
  • Wear shoes on the beach to limit foot injuries and foot burns. The sand can get hot.  Leave glass containers at home.  Pick up trash you see that could injure others.  Pick up your own trash and take all items home with you.
  • Be mindful of smoking at the beach. It is a health hazard to those around you, and flying ashes or lit cigarettes can cause burns to others.
  • Stay out of the water when you have been drinking. It’s not a good combination.
  • Keep an eye on your children, regardless of their age. Have a conversation with them about beach safety at home.  They will listen better when they are not distracted by wanting to get in the water.  Show them the following video so they know how to get out of a rip current and know what to look for… Rip Current Survival Guide
  • Be aware of sun exposure, even when it’s overcast. I see many people who are red as beets on their first day of vacation. Use sunscreen.  Limit your sun time to prevent sun poisoning.  It’s not fun.
Use one of the following 30A Regional Beach Accesses with lifeguard towers so help is available if you need assistance:

Inlet Beach Regional Access

438 South Orange Street Center

Panama City Beach, FL 32459

Santa Clara Regional Beach Access

3468 E Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

 Van Ness Butler Regional Beach Access

 1931 E Co Hwy 30-A

 Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Grayton Dunes Regional Beach Access

288 Garfield Street

Grayton Beach, FL 32459

Blue Mountain Regional Beach Access

 2365 S Co Hwy 83

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Gulfview Heights Regional Beach Access

186 Gulfview Heights Street

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Ed Walline Beach Access

4447 W. Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Dune Allen Regional Beach Access

5753 W. Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Geronimo Beach Access

735 Scenic Gulf Drive

Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Miramar Beach Regional Beach Access

 2375 Scenic Gulf Dr

Miramar Beach, FL 32550



30A Beaches Four Flag System

One Response

  1. Jim Dixon
    | Reply

    Great article Teri

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