Dive Flag Requirement in LA County

Last year when I was diving with a class at Point Dume in Malibu we were approached by a “supervisor” for LA County’s lifeguard stationed at Point Dume. He wanted to let all of the divers know there was a new “requirement” where anyone diving within the “safe zone’ (within two hundred yards or so of the shore) must dive with a Dive Flag. Whether that is a red float with a white stripe or a floating flag you must have one.

As a regular diver at Point Dume and one who communicates with LA County’s lifeguards on a regular basis one of the instructors and I were a little upset when they told us of this new requirement. You might not think it a big deal to have to carry a flag or red and white striped dive float until you have to do it. Besides it’s the job of the lifeguard’s to protect anyone in the water within 200 yards of the beach and if you allow boats or jetski’s within 200 yards on a regular basis what good does a flag do? It gives them a target.
After a little research by some instructors here’s what was found: 
  • There is no state law requiring the display of flags by divers in the waters as a condition of use (if they are not diving from a boat). 
  • The County does not have an ordinance that states a float with flag must be displayed while diving. The California Code of Regulations does state that when diving from a boat, a Dive or Alpha flag shall be displayed while diving is in progress. It is a violation of the code to display while no diving is in progress. In short, when diving off the beach, a float and flag is not required. The County Lifeguards however do consider it a safety issue and encourage all divers and groups to use floats and flags.
  • There is a County ordinance that states all vessels must operate 300 or more yards from all beaches in the County where swimmers are present.  Also part of the same ordinance states that all swimmers must remain inside of 200 yards from shore so that there is no overlap between boaters and swimmers.
In other words there is No Dive Flag Requirement in LA County. They encourage and recommend it but it is not a requirement. Of course this could change at any time.