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Fin2swim Rip Current Safety Tips

ripcurrent_safety

Rip Currents - What are they?
The Dangers? - How to Escape?

Having good aquatic skills, and being safe in and around the water is wonderful, but there is another thing to be cautious of at the beach. This danger is called a "Rip Current".


Rip currents, or sometimes miscalled rip tides or under tows, occur world wide. Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore. They can sweep even the strongest, most skilled swimmer out to sea. Before going to the beach we strongly encourage you to check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.

How can I identify a rip current?

Signs that a rip current is present are very subtle and difficult for the average beachgoer to identify. Look for differences in the water color, water motion, incoming wave shape or breaking point compared to adjacent conditions. Look for any of these clues:

  • Channel of churning, choppy water
  • Area having a notable difference in water color
  • Line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
  • Break in the incoming wave pattern
  • One, all or none the clues may be visible.

 

Rip Current :: Example of Rip Current, take notice to the texture of the water. A break in the incoming wave patern is one sign of a rip current

ripcurrent_warning

How can people avoid rip current problems?

  • Learning to swim
  • If you’ll be in surf, learn to swim in surf. It’s not the same as a pool or lake.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Swim near a lifeguard.
  • Look for posted signs and warning flags, which may indicate higher than usual hazards.
  • Check with lifeguards before swimming.
  • Obey all instructions provided by lifeguards.
  • Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
  • If in doubt, don’t go out! 

What can people do if caught in a rip current?

If caught in a rip current:

  • Try to remain calm to conserve energy.
  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Think of it like a treadmill you can’t turn off. You want to step to the side of it.
  • Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline.
  • When out of the current, swim and angle away from the current and towards shore.
  • If you can’t escape this, try to float, or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore. When it does, swim toward shore.
  • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

 

How to escape a Rip Current :: When getting carried out, swim along the shoreline parrallel to the shore.

How can people assist others who are caught in a rip current?

You can help someone caught in a rip current by:

  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard.
  • If no lifeguard is available, have someone call 9-1-1.
  • Throw the rip current victim something that floats – a lifejacket, a cooler, a ball.
  • Yell instructions on how to escape.
  • Many have died trying to help others. Don’t become a victim while trying to help someone else!
  • Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many city offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.
  • When you arrive at the beach, ask on-duty lifeguards about rip currents and any other hazards that may be present.

 

How can people assist others who are caught in a Rip Current? :: Get help from life guards is one option.

 Why are rip currents dangerous? 

  • Rip currents pull people away from shore.
  • Rip current speeds can vary from moment to moment and can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the surf.
  • Rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.

 

Rip Currents frequently form around structures
 Facts about rip currents
  • Rip current speeds vary. Average speeds are 1-2 feet per second, but they have been measured as fast   as 8 feet per second—faster than an Olympic swimmer!
  • Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 yards wide.
  • Sometimes rip currents end just beyond the line of breaking waves; however, they may continue to pull hundreds of yards offshore.
  • Rip currents do not pull people under the water—they pull people away from shore.
  • Rip currents are not “undertow” or “riptides.” These improper terms should not be used to describe them.

 

Rip Currents :: Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 yards wide.
Where can I get more information about rip currents?
  • Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.
  • When you arrive at the beach, ask on duty lifeguards about rip currents and any other hazards that may be present.

 

Rip Current Structure Diagram

More information about rip currents can be found at the following sites:
http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov
http://www.usla.org/ripcurrents
http://www.weather.gov/nwr/

NOAA’s National Weather Service Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services 301-713-1677 ext. 124

United States Lifesaving Association statistics indicate that the chance of death by drowning at a beach protected by lifeguards is 1 in 18 million.

Download printable Rip Current flyer here:
Fin2swim Rip Current Info

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