Rip tides are extremely strong currents of water that flow away from the surf. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, they are the leading surf hazard– accounting for over one-hundred deaths annually and 80% of all beach rescues.
Rip currents are difficult to identify, but these traits could signal danger:
- 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
It’s best to never swim alone. Make sure you are on a beach with lifeguard protection. Also, swimmers should stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties, as rip currents often exist along these structures.
In the event you’re caught in a rip current, stay calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Rip currents are too powerful to fight, so instead of trying to swim straight back to the shore, swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle — away from the current — towards the shore.
This brief video from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration) provides an excellent visual aid for rip current safety.
If you can’t to swim out of the current, float or calmly tread water until you can swim back to the beach as the current eventually weakens. As well, try to gain attention of anyone on shore by waving your hands or yelling for help.
If you see someone caught in a rip current, call for a lifeguard. If there are no lifeguards on duty, call 9-1-1 and try to throw a flotation device to the victim. Remember, many people drown by trying to save others and chances are the rip current will overpower you and your rescue attempt.
Have you had any experience with rip tides? Can you share any beach safety tips with our readers?