Beach Safety – Riptides (Currents)

  • Posted on Jun 26, 2017

Summer is here and many people are heading to the beach. Riptides  can turn a fun beach trip into a not so fun beach trip! Here is what you need to know!

Riptides or currents, are long, narrow channels of water which move from the shore to the sea.  These currents are so strong, they can take even the strongest of swimmers with them. As waves come into the shore, water piles up and needs somewhere to go. Instead of returning over the reef or sandbar from which it came, the current may take the path of least resistance and funneled into a channel between two obstacles. Riptides increase in frequency during hurricane season and tropical storms.

80% of all open water rescue attempts are due to rip tides and they claim over 100 victims a year.

Recognizing a Riptide:

Riptides may look like a channel of foaming, churning or choppy water. Riptides pick up seaweed and debris in it. They also pick up sand, so the water in that area may appear a different color. Riptides may also look like a “break” in the incoming tide.

What to do if you get caught in a riptide:

  1. Don’t panic! Feeling like you are getting carried out to sea can be terrifying, but try and keep calm. Rip currents don’t pull you under, they are just channels of moving water and will eventually dissipate.
  2. Don’t try and swim against the rip. Deaths from riptides aren’t caused by the current pulling someone under – rather a person panicking, trying to swim against the current, tiring and drowning. An 8-feet-per-second riptide is so strong that even an Olympic swimmer could not swim against it.
  3. Swim perpendicular to the current either direction. Currents are usually 20-100 feet wide. Once you get out of the current, you can swim to shore.
  4. If you do not have the swim skills or energy to swim out of the rip, float on your back and go with it. Once the current dissipates you can swim back or call for help.

Remember: never let kids play in the water by themselves. Water can appear shallow with a riptide!!

-Missy Nicholson, CPNP

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