• Rip currents cause about 80% of all beach rescues carried by the lifeguards
The day at the coast can be a very memorable experience whether we are talking about water sports, beachcombing, picnicking, or even a simple walk on the beach.
However, there are forces of nature that can be dangerous for beach visitors. One of those forces of nature is a rip current. United States Lifesaving Association states that there are about 100 deaths attributed to rip currents every year in the USA. Rip currents cause about 80% of all beach rescues carried by the lifeguards.
Every beach visitor must know about potential risks since awareness is the main tool to prevent a tragedy.
Rip current is a powerful current that can occur right by the beach. This current is narrow and moves away from the shore through the waves and it can happen on the shorelines of oceans, seas, and even large lakes.
Unsuspected swimmers might get dragged from the shoreline into the ocean very rapidly by rip currents. The current carries swimmers and various floating objects past the zone of the breaking waves and then dissipates letting people escape. Rip current doesn't pull people underwater, it just takes them away from the shore, but inexperienced swimmers might panic or exhaust themselves trying to fight the current and thus creating a life risk.
Rip Current Identification
Rip current can be visually identified because of the contrast with waves around it. It looks like a river floating away from the shore right through the breaking waves. A few points to remember to recognize the rip current.
1) Rip current is often a different color than the water around it. It is muddier and might look either lighter or darker than the surrounding water, depending on the sunlight angle.
2) It looks like a break in a regular wave pattern, almost like a narrow path heading away from the shore while waves move towards the shore.
3) Occasionally, you can see foam, driftwood, or other objects being carried from the shore by the rip current, which contrasts with waves pushing objects to the shore.
How Survive Rip Currents?
You must maintain your cool and avoid panicking. Rip current by itself is not dangerous since contrary to popular belief it doesn't pull people underwater, but swimmers trying to fight are the ones at risk.
There are two ways to safely escape it if you got caught by it.
1) Rip current is very narrow, so you can escape it by swimming parallel to the shore in either direction. Generally, a few strokes are enough to get out of the danger. After you escape it and get back into the area of breaking waves, it is much easier to get back ashore since waves will be helping you to swim back.
2) Another option is not to fight the current, but let it carry you until it dissipates. Float or tread water while you are in the current to stay above the water. When the movement of the rip current stops beyond the surf level you can swim back to the shore diagonally to avoid the current or to signal for help to get rescued.
When going to the beach to enjoy the time with the family, relax with friends, or simply enjoy the serenity of the vast ocean, the last thing we want to think about is the dangers of our trip. However, being prepared is what can prevent the day at the beach from becoming a tragedy.
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