Slips on La Jolla tide pool rocks prompt warning from local lifeguards

A child shows her friends what she found at a La Jolla tide pool.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Rocks exposed by low tide ‘are very slippery and very dangerous,’ San Diego Fire-Rescue official says.


San Diego lifeguards are issuing a warning about slippery rocks at some of La Jolla’s tide pools.

“We get our fair share of [calls for] minor or even major medical aids,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Lt. Lonnie Stephens. “In La Jolla, a lot of the tide pools are in tricky areas and technical to maneuver around.”

Tony Mendiola, who works at the Casa de la Playa hotel on Coast Boulevard, said he often sees visitors to the tide pools in that area slip and fall. One person injured his head, Mendiola said.

People unfamiliar with the area don’t always know the rocks are slippery, especially when the tide is low and local sea life is exposed.

“There are always going to be accidents; people are unassuming and not paying attention,” Stephens said. “Anywhere along a rocky coastline, one thing is being mindful of the tide levels: the high and low tide. When the tide recedes, the rocky areas are exposed because the water level drops. At that point, any and every rock is slippery and never recommended to walk on. The exposed rocks are like black ice — they are very slippery and very dangerous. Lifeguards can’t even navigate that safely. There is also a danger when the tide levels are low because rogue waves can knock people into the ocean.”

Low tide exposes rocks at La Jolla Cove.
(Stephen Breskin)

Stephens advised tide pool visitors to keep an eye out for green or shiny black rocks because those often are the most slippery. The best way to minimize the risk of falling is to test the surface with one’s hand, he said. “If it feels slippery, then do not attempt to walk on it.”

Green mossy rocks are slippery and pose a fall risk, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Lt. Lonnie Stephens.
(Kathryn Anthony)

“When lifeguards go in for a rescue, they will crouch down and might even be on all fours to reduce the distance one might fall,” Stephens said. “There is always an inherent danger to walking around low-line rocky areas adjacent to the ocean, and extreme caution should be used before you walk on it. One hundred percent of the time, green mossy rocks or black shiny rocks are going to be slippery, and that is often where people are slipping.

“If you don’t walk on slippery rocks, you would minimize the risk of a fall.” ◆