Rip Currents


If you are one of the thousands of people who every weekend enjoy time on the beach, you will want to know how to do it safely. If you are spending any amount of time near water then you will need to ensure that you fully understand beach safety and rip currents.  Rip currents can be very dangerous and if not fully understood can cause injury or even death to swimmers. The ocean is a very powerful thing and within 24 hours there are two high tides and two low tides; keeping track of these is very important to you if you surf.


A rip current is very strong water current that flows out to sea from the shore. These current are incredibly fast and can gain up to speeds of eight feet per second. They can happen at any beach in any area and there is no specific area that they will occur, this is why you should be very aware of beach safety at all times. 


Rip currents can drag swimmers and surfers through the water at lightning speeds, and will drag you away from the beach making it difficult if not impossible to make it back to shore. It's a sad fact that getting caught in a rip current often leads to drowning.


Rip currents are not rare, they happen at most beaches and swimmers need to be careful. If you are standing in waist deep water you are just as at risk as someone in deeper water. Surfers often use the Rip current to propel themselves past the breakers. If you understand how the currents work, then they can be avoided and if your a surfer, used to your advantage.


You should respect the sea and how powerful it can be. You should learn some basic beach safety and ensure that you always swim where there are life guards; they will ensure that your safety is the most important thing. Responding in the correct way if you are caught in a rip tide is also very important.  If you react in the right way it could save your life and some basic knowledge of rip currents can help.


Stronger currents are often caused by the wind which pushes the water towards the shore; the water struggles to find somewhere to go and causes the rip current affect. Many people think that it is the current under the water which is strongest, this is untrue and often the surface water is just as powerful. Surf conditions will often have strong rip currents and they are often stronger than the surf, when it is windy then it is usually certain that there will be a rip. 


Observing the angles of the waves will help to determine if there is likely to be a rip current.

Sometimes rip currents can be spotted, although they are difficult to see, you may be lucky and recognize the signs. You need to look out for a channel of churning water, it will choppy and the sea will be a different color in that area. You will also notice that the water will be moving out to sea and not into the shore line and it will carry debris with it.  


If you do happen to get caught in a rip current you should try to remain calm. Although your first instinct is to try to swim to shore, this will be really difficult and take all of your strength trying to swim against the rip current. Rip currents are stronger than even very strong swimmers so trying to do this won't work.


You will need to try and swim parallel to the shore, until you have cleared the rip current once you are clear you will be able to swim back to shore. If you are very tired then you will be able to tread water or even float as the tide will bring you back in. If you remain calm when caught in a rip tide then you can usually swim your way out. These currents do not pull you under they simply take you further out to sea where you will panic and then tire.  If you are sensible when going to the beach you should be able to recognize the signs that there could be a strong rip current. If you still choose to swim then you should ensure that you are aware of the dangers, and how to get yourself out of trouble.

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