Don't Get Ripped at the Beach

Swim out of the rip current. / NOAA

Summertime means beach outings for many, but before you go, there are things about rip currents you should know.

So first things first, just what is a rip current? Well rip currents are a relatively strong, narrow current of water flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone which can present a hazard to swimmers.
If a swimmer encounters a rip current they can be swept very quickly away from the shore in a current much too fast to swim against.

These currents form as wind and waves push water onshore.

Often excess water will travel along the shoreline until it reaches a path of least resistance and flows quickly back into the ocean as a rip current.

Generally rip currents are narrow and located in a trench between sandbars, under piers or along jetties but some can actually travel along the beach in the right conditions.

Identifying rip currents can be tricky to the average beachgoer and sometimes polarized sunglasses can make it easier in looking for these clues:
⢠a channel of churning, choppy water
⢠an area having a notable difference in water color
⢠a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
⢠a break in the incoming wave pattern

These clues can help identify rip currents but even without these characteristics a rip current could be occurring.

Rip currents are the number one surf hazard for swimmers at the beach.
More than 100 drownings occur every year due to rip currents in the United States.

There are a few proper steps and ideas that can keep you and others out of rip current danger while swimming at the beach.

First of all learn how to swim before you need this skill at the beach. Understand that swimming in a pool is much different than swimming in the surf zone at the beach.
⢠Never swim alone.
⢠Be alert to dangers at all times. If in doubt, don't go out!
⢠It's best if possible to swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
⢠Follow instructions from lifeguards. They are working to keep everyone safe.
⢠If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
⢠Don't fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. Most rip currents are narrow enough that . When out of the current, swim towards shore.
⢠If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
⢠If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
⢠If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1 . Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

Be safe and this summer and don't get ripped at the beach.