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Fun in the sun: Safety more important than sunscreen

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Michael Peterson)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Stretching across California's Central Coast, Vandenberg boasts 40-miles of coastline. Much of this coast is open to Team V members for recreation and the Vandenberg safety office hopes that remembering to be safe will go hand-in-hand with remembering beach essentials.

"One of the first things people think of when they decide to go to local beaches for a day at the ocean here is to bring sunscreen," said Mike Trudeau, 30th Space Wing Safety Office. "We hope that beach goers will think 'safety first, then sunscreen.'"

According to Trudeau, a common misconception is, "I applied sunscreen before I even got to the beach, so I'm safe."

"This is not the case," Trudeau said. "Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun, so that it can be absorbed by the skin and less likely to wash off when you perspire. Also, don't just apply once...apply sunscreen often throughout the day, wear hats and protective clothing or you may resemble the color of a lobster after a day at the beach."
Like sunbathing, an activity often synonymous with California beaches is surfing and Vandenberg beaches lay claim to an active surfing community.

"The best part about surfing at Vandenberg is that it is the closest beach for those of us who work on base," said Anthony Cuneo, 30th Space Wing Safety Office employee and Vandenberg Surfing Association member. "For those of us who work full time and have families, surfing on base during the day is our best option."

This veteran Vandenberg beach surfer stresses that all beachgoers should promote safety in the surf.

"All beachgoers should never enter the water alone," Cuneo said. "Familiarize yourself with the location before getting in the water, watch what other surfers are doing, have a wet suit, a leash for your surfboard and your buddy. It is good practice to have a cell phone, water, blanket and a comprehensive first aid kit in your car. VSA requires all members to be up-to-date on cardio pulmonary resuscitation and water rescue techniques."

Cuneo also suggests that surfers or swimmers do a little research on the water and weather before getting in local waters.

"Vandenberg beaches are subject to rapidly changing conditions," the surfer said. "Wind, tide, and swell can quickly turn a seemingly calm beach to something you should avoid. Information about tides, swell, and weather are all available online and can now be accessed instantaneously with the internet and smart phones."

Base safety officials also mentioned to keep a water supply, since the ocean isn't ready source of personal hydration.

"It's easy for some people to forget to hydrate throughout the day because, well, they're surrounded by water and might be swimming all day." Trudeau said. "It's important to hydrate throughout the day, limit alcohol consumption and to know the signs of heat stroke and dehydration."

For more information on Vandenberg beaches and beach safety call 606-8806. For general California ocean safety information go to the California Department of Parks and Recreation Ocean Safety web site at

Note: The following feature story is the first installation in a three part series on safety