Surfing or swimming at the beach can be loads of fun, but rip tides can absolutely ruin the day. Drowning danger is always a concern when you’re near water, and the beach is not an exception. Today, let’s talk about escaping a rip current.
What is a Rip Current?
Rip currents are choppy waves that can quickly drag swimmers out to sea. They are deceptively dangerous and can easily lead to drownings or serious injury.
People often mistake rip currents for an undertow or rip tide, but this is incorrect. In fact, both rip tides and undertows are not exactly the correct terms. A rip current is the proper name, and it does not refer to a tide. In 2017, the National Weather Service recorded 31 surf-zone fatalities and more than half
were a direct result of rip currents.
Being pulled away from the shore can be sudden and jarring to a swimmer or surfer. More often than not, victims tend to be exhausted and unable to struggle. Other victims struggle in a way that only puts them in greater danger. In the next section we’ll discuss the proper technique for escaping a rip current.
Basics for Escaping a Rip Current
One of the greatest dangers of rip currents is that inexperienced or disoriented swimmers don’t understand how to get out of harm’s way. The most common mistake among swimmers who get caught in a rip current is to struggle against the wave.
In actuality, the best method for escaping a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. This method helps the swimmer to get out of the path of the current while gradually moving towards safer waters. Most rip currents are 50 to 100 feet wide, so this method often works rather quickly. Upon escaping the rip current, the swimmer is now free to make their way to shore.
Here’s an informative video to show this technique in action:
Identifying a Rip Current
One of the best ways to stay out of harm’s way is by identifying a rip current before setting foot into the water. Typically, these will resemble a channel of smooth surface water. The waves will be lower and you won’t notice as many whitecaps. If a section like this is visible, take precaution. Avoid that area to prevent being caught in a dangerous situation.
Swim With a Buddy and Follow the Rules
Beyond identifying and escaping a rip current, there are some other basic safety precautions you can take. For one, be sure to swim with a buddy. After all, there is safety in numbers.
Having a friend or family member in the water with you means that you can watch each other’s backs – quite literally! If there is a sign of struggling, your buddy can call for help or try to assist. It always pays to be able to recognize the signs of drowning
Adding to this point, be sure to only swim in designated areas on lifeguard-protected beaches. Furthermore, pay attention to flags and warning signs that let visitors know about swimming, weather and tide conditions.
Basic tips like these can help prevent drowning danger. For more information about rip currents, visit ripcurrents.noaa.gov