When in Doubt, Stay Out: Rip Currents

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With the more than usual shark sightings this season, everyone has been reading up on beach safety measures and procedures. While a shark sighting can be alarming, there is actually a bigger situation to be aware of. There are only on average 6 shark-related deaths a year globally, but many people don`t know that more than 100 people each year die from rip current related drowning alone. In fact, at least 80% of lifeguard rescues are due to rip currents.

What is a rip current?

Rip currents are powerful, fast-moving channels of water (some move up to 8 feet per second) that typically flow from the shoreline to beyond the area where waves break. A misconception about these currents is that they pull you under and that is not the case. What causes swimmers to go under is when they begin to panic. There is actually no current in the ocean that will pull you under.

Spot the rip current before it`s too late

Common characteristics of rip currents include:

  • Choppy channel of water that has a churning motion
  • Line of sea foam, seaweed or debris that is moving steadily out to sea
  • Disrupted pattern of incoming waves

You are caught, what should you do?

  • Stay calm. Don`t try to fight the current. You don`t want to tire and you certainly won`t win the battle
  • Swim sideways, parallel to the beach. Let the waves take you into shore and just go with them
  • Float or calmly tread water. If you can`t escape with the waves, try this. The current will lose strength offshore and you will be washed out of it and be able to swim away towards shore.
  • Gain assistance. If you are truly unable to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself. Wave your arms and yell for help

In addition, anyone heading out into the ocean should never be alone and should have adequate swimming abilities. You don`t want to take any risks when it comes to your safety.

 – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration