California Beaches

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What Do Colors at Beaches Mean?


What do posted flags and signs of certain colors mean?
  • Red - beach is closed to the public.
  • Yellow - caution, potential dangers.
  • Green - waters are safe for swimming, no potential dangers spotted.
  • Orange - no lifeguard on duty.
  • Blue - dangers and hazards. Ask lifeguard for details.
  • Blackball (black circle surrounded by a yellow background) - hard surfboards are not allowed in the break.
The universal sign of distress? Raise your arm into the air if you can!

Here are more beach safety tips!

You arrive at a beach and scan the scene. A seasoned swimmer or trained observer may look for colors--especially red, the sign that a lifeguard is around. Are you green with envy? Not when you see a green flag which indicates the water is OK to enter. Most professional lifeguard associations internationally, in the U.S. and in California use colors for meaning. Red is the lifeguard uniform color in California, though internationally a combination of red & yellow is recommended as readily distinguishable against the masses of people and colors in and around aquatic environments.

Lifeguards at swimming pools, beaches, lakes, river fronts and other waterfronts in California nearly always wear red, a color made unforgettable by the Baywatch babes in a fictional TV show featuring shapely Pamela Sue Anderson (who played lifeguard CJ Parker) for five of 11 seasons. When Baywatch filmed at California beaches during its years of production, millions of locals and tourists watched the brilliant hue became more exciting than ever as actresses such as Carmen Electra and Yasmine Bleeth donned red swimsuits and made their signature run across the sands, portraying Los Angeles County lifeguards.

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