Look Before You Leap
As the baseball legend Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching" [source: Baseball Almanac]. Surfers can and should observe a lot from the beach before pushing off into the surf. Take note of physical features and objects, such as jetties, piers and fishing boats, that could pose a safety risk. Noticing landmarks will also help you to orient yourself, making it less likely you'll lose your bearings in the water. Locate the lifeguard if there is one. Check for flags and signs. At beaches across the United States, for instance, a single red flag typically warns of hazardously high surf and strong current; a purple flag indicates the presences of dangerous marine animals.
Also look for the line-up, the area offshore where surfers wait to catch waves. Avoid crossing the path between waiting surfers and the surf.
With experience, you'll be able to spot other telling details. You'll know how to read the waves from a distance and recognize the translucent film bobbing on the surface as a jellyfish.