What to know and what to do at the beach in Cork this summer

Beach season has begun.
What to know and what to do at the beach in Cork this summer

Ms Casey wanted to thank the public for their continued support over the years, in terms of listening to lifeguards and abiding by the instructions of the trained staff. Picture Denis Minihane.

The summer has begun and people from Cork and further afield will be flocking to the coastline to enjoy the sunshine on one of the county's beaches.

Cork holds an impressive collection of 11 Blue Flag beaches and 15 Green Coast Flag beaches.

The Green Coast Award is a specially designed award for those rural beaches which have excellent water quality but do not necessarily have the strict infrastructure that is required to meet all the criteria set for Blue Flag status such as toilets, parking or lifeguards.

Cork holds an impressive collection of 11 Blue Flag beaches and 15 Green Coast Flag beaches. Picture Denis Minihane.
Cork holds an impressive collection of 11 Blue Flag beaches and 15 Green Coast Flag beaches. Picture Denis Minihane.

Water Safety Officer with Cork County Council Caroline Casey emphasized people should check out the ‘Cork CoCo Beachguard’ Facebook page before heading for the sand and sea.

“On the Facebook page, the lifeguards post a morning report of the sea and weather conditions for the day. It’s very useful to check this out before heading to the beach.” 

Ms Casey said the council has 40 full-time lifeguards to work for the summer season in Cork along with 15 – 20 on a panel to cover holidays and illness.

The lifeguards are on duty from 10.30am to 7pm for the weekends of June and every day in July and August as well as the first two weeks of September.

“There are 12 lifeguarded beaches in Cork; Barleycove, Fountainstown, Garretstown, Garrylucas, Garryvoe, Inchydoney, Owenahincha, The Warren, Tragumna, Youghal Claycastle, Redbarn and Front strand.” 

In terms of staying safe at the beach during the good weather, Caroline emphasized the importance of staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen that is water-resistant, and also having a sunhat that protects the neck and ears.

Mark Riordan and Kate Manning with their Wolfadoodle Meadow making the most of the sunshine on the beach at Myrtleville, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Mark Riordan and Kate Manning with their Wolfadoodle Meadow making the most of the sunshine on the beach at Myrtleville, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

“When swimming at the beach, stay between the lifeguard flags and stay in your depth. It’s important to know your ability and to pay attention to any signs that might be on display.” 

 The County Council water safety officer said if in doubt seek advice from the lifeguard.

“If you are unsure, ask the lifeguard and they will be able to help you.” 

Ms Casey also said that this year beach information leaflets are available in Ukrainian at the lifeguard huts.

The water safety officer highlighted there is zero-tolerance for inflatables on the water.

“Inflatables are dangerous and unsuitable for the open water. If someone has an inflatable at the beach, the lifeguard will speak to them and ask them not to use it.” 

Ms Casey said inflatables are a very serious issue.

“We are not here to spoil anyone’s fun, but they are dangerous and they are a safety issue. It is a huge safety concern.” 

The water safety officer, who has worked with the council in this role for over 10 years also asked people to have some respect for life-saving devices such as ring buoys.

“Ringbuoys are sometimes used for litter. We find empty cans and dog poo bags in them. It happens and we would ask people to please respect the ring buoys and take their litter to a bin or home with them.” 

Lifeguard Conall Boyle who works with Water Safety Ireland Cork teaching youths about water safety and lifesaving techniques in the water, said there are a number of things to be wary of at the beach including jellyfish, weaver fish, and hypothermia.

“There are two main types of jellyfish in Ireland, moon jellyfish, which are clear and harmless and compass, which are brown and have a sting, similar to a nettle.” 

Mr Boyle said if you are stung by a compass jellyfish clean off the area with fresh water and get an ice pack from the lifeguard if available.

“The pain will last about a day, if it lasts longer than that get an antihistamine from the pharmacy.” 

Other jellyfish that can pop up along the Cork coast include Lions Mane and Portuguese Man O’War.

“The Portuguese Man O’War is a pink and purple inflated body with tentacles attached. If you are stung, you should wash the area with warm water, as warm as you can bear and if it gets worse, you should go to the burn unit at Cork University Hospital by presenting at the A&E department.” 

Enjoying the surfing at Garrettstown, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Enjoying the surfing at Garrettstown, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Weaver fish are little tiny fish that often loiter about an inch below the sand and cause a nasty little cut on the bottom of swimmer's feet.

Mr Boyle said they gather a lot after particularly bad weather and at low tide.

“You can wade yourself into the water splashing and this can scare them away so you don’t end up walking on them.” 

If you are cut by a spikey weaver fish, it's important to wash the cut in warm water and get a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one recently.

“The fish do make a puncture wound in the foot and release venom. People react differently to the venom so it is prudent to get a tetanus shot to stop infection.” 

In terms of hypothermia, if someone has spent too long in the water and is suffering from the cold, Conall said it's important not to give the person hot food or drinks.

“Feeding the person causes the blood to rush to their belly when they need it to warm the body.” 

Mr Boyle recommended the individual puts on a hat and socks as well as a dry robe or full clothes and to sit in their car for a few minutes.

In relation to picnics on the beach, he said it was safe enough to have a few nibbles before splashing about in the water, but said people were advised not to drink on the beach.

For families, Mr Boyle said it's important to have an arranged meeting point for children, just in case they get lost, either back at the car or at the lifeguard hut.

The lifeguard also said it was important to keep kids covered in suncream, well hydrated and in view.

Chatting about parking, Mr Boyle said some beaches have more car parking spaces than others and the most important thing was not to block access for emergency vehicles that may need to get through.

Finally, Ms Casey wanted to thank the public for their continued support over the years, in terms of listening to lifeguards and abiding by the instructions of the trained staff.

“People have been good to take direction and advice from the lifeguards and working together we have managed to keep a lot of people safe.” 

She also highlighted that the pontoon at Barleycove was damaged in recent bad weather and is under review by the council in terms of a repair.

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