Recognize, Avoid and Survive Rip Currents!
1. Most waves are caused by winds and storms at sea.
2. Waves hit the beach at angles. As a result, this energy creates a current called the long shore current. This long shore current flows along the coastline. It can be easily recognized by watching foam. Swimmers or debris near shore drift up or down the coast.
3. After a set of waves break, a lot of water and energy is pushed towards the shoreline. This displaced water will move along the beach with the long shore current until it finds its way back out to sea. This causes the rip current. Rip currents are narrow, river-like currents that have been fed by the long shore current and sets of waves. Rip currents are between 50 feet and 50 yards wide and can flow up to hundreds of yards past the surfline.
You can easily spot a rip current by its foamy and choppy surface. The water in a rip current can be dirty brown, from the sand being turned up, and moves rapidly out to sea.
4. If you are caught in a rip current do not panic! The rip current will not pull you under! Call or wave for assistance or swim parallel to shore until you are out of the rip, then swim directly towards the shore.
5. If you cannot recognize the long shore current or rip current, talk to the lifeguard. If you cannot swim an overhand stroke for 15 minutes, you should not be in the ocean much above your knees. For your own safety, take swimming lessons!
6. The ocean is a wonderful playground. Avoid its dangers by understanding it more thoroughly. Stay in shape and be strong enough to enjoy it safely!
Rip Current Facts
- 65% to 80% of rescues reported on surf beaches in the Untied States can be attributed to Rip Currents!
- Rip Currents, in an average year, are more deadly than lighting, hurricanes and tornadoes combined!
- The National Weather Service Forecast Office routinely issues a marine weather statement whenever conditions are likely to produce deadly Rip Currents! Always check with the lifeguards for local conditions.
- A Rip Current, mistakenly called an undertow; is a strong but narrow surface current of water flowing out past the surfzone that can pull even the strongest swimmer into deeper water beyond the sand bar.
- If you are a poor swimmer and are caught in a Rip Current, wade sideways across the current — meaning parallel to the beach — until out of its pull. Another means of escape for those who are good swimmers is to ride the current out beyond the sand bar where its pull will weaken, then swim toward shore at an angle away from the rip current.
- Heed the advice of the lifeguards! At unpatrolled beaches or near piers, jetties and groins, be especially cautious and avoid going into surf much above your knees.