What is the difference between red and double red flags at the beach?

(from the Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council) Beaches of South Walton uses the official Florida Department of Environmental Protection flag warning system that is used around the state to keep beachgoers informed of the current surf conditions. It is crucial to understand the system and the conditions associated with different flags. Many have asked: “What is the difference between single red and double red flags?”

The single red flag flies to warn of high hazard due to strong currents and high surf. On these days, “knee deep is too deep” and beachgoers who enter the water should know how to escape a rip current. Rip currents are powerful currents of water flowing away from the shoreline and can easily pull swimmers out to sea. These currents should not be confused with longshore currents, which carry swimmers down the beach, parallel to the shore.

The red flag is considered to be an adequate warning of dangerous water conditions, and those who choose to ignore this warning cannot be guaranteed a safe beach experience.

Following the “knee deep is too deep” rule does not limit the opportunity to cool down near the water’s edge. And enjoying the beach at one of Beaches of South Walton’s eight regional beach accesses with lifeguards is also recommended on red flag days when conditions are especially unpredictable.

When a double red flag is flying, conditions are more extreme than with a single flag, and the water is closed for swimming. Double red flags are also flown when sharks are present. In these dangerous conditions, beachgoers are not permitted to enter the water, and those who violate the policy are subject to a $200 fine. On an otherwise beautiful double-red-flag day, it is safe to enjoy shore activities, such as sunbathing and volleyball. Choosing the swimming pool or a coastal dune lake is recommended to cool down when the gulf is closed to the public.

Knowing the difference between red and double-red flags and obeying the flag warning system will help make a safe and enjoyable day at the beach.