Rip currents aren't what you may think they are. And if there are breaking waves, rips are present! Since all water has to go back out to sea once it is pushed onto the beach by waves, a rip current is always there. But sometimes, due to higher wave action, storms, or winds, the rip current can turn deadly. And rips can develop where there was none. Even a strong swimmer isn't safe. A rip isn't an under-tow. It will not pull you under, but it will pull you away from the shore. But with a little education and attention, you can spot a rip, and if caught in one, survive it.
Since most beaches by the residential areas where many home rentals on the beach have no life guard, you need to be especially wary. Know how to recognize a rip, how to survive a rip, and what to do if you see someone else caught in a rip. Above all, don't panic. Arm yourself and your family with the information below.
Watch the videos to educate yourself and your family about rip currents. Stay safe while visiting the beach. This could be the difference between life and death!
Recognizing a Rip
The places you think are most likely safe, are not. On a day with a lot of waves, the calmer spot, is likely the most dangerous to let your little ones play. Children should NEVER play in the surf alone. And non-swimmers should always wear flotation aids while in the water, even if with a strong swimmer. A rip current can easily separate people and non-swimmers are especially vulnerable.
A rip current can be present if any of the following are present:
- An area of calm water in the middle of rougher surf.
- An area of darker water, or sandy water.
- An absence or break in incoming waves.
- Seaweed or foam present, showing more wave action present.
- Choppy water.
The only time rip currents are not present is when the water is very calm.
What should you do?
Don't wait for disaster to strike. Have a plan before you and anyone else gets in the water. Keep in mind that most experts may disagree on what you should do when caught in a rip, since each one is different. But they agree on 3 things. Don't panic, call for help, and don't fight the rip. It is important that no one EVER swim alone. And you should always have someone on the beach as a spotter unless you are swimming near life guards. Even then, don't rely on a life guard to watch your children. YOU are there to guard their life first.
Make sure everyone knows to:
- Stay calm. Yell for help, but don't panic. Panic kills.
- Conserve energy. Don't try to swim to shore as you will tire yourself. Stay afloat, wave to get attention, and wait until the rip breaks naturally. Most rips move in circles and it will likely bring you back to the shore. Some strong swimmers may swim parallel to the shore to swim out of the rip. But this doesn't always work.
- Once free, wait for help or swim back to shore. Make sure you swim around the rip, not back into its grip.
Survival Video - A Comprehensive Look at the Rip
If you educate yourself and your family, you are more likely to survive. Always have someone on shore, or yourself, call the life guard emergency number and keep an eye on the struggling swimmer. Unless you are a confident swimmer and know what you are doing, you can end up becoming a fatality to the rip you are trying to save someone from. Always have a flotation device with you as an aid.
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