A rip current is a strong channel of water flowing away from the beach that poses a danger to swimmers.
According to the United States Lifeguard Association, rip currents account for 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.
Before entering the water, look for:
- Frothy, choppy waves
- Break in wave pattern
- Different color in one area compared to the rest of the water
If you are able to, look at the water from a higher vantage point, such as a sand dune.
Also, look for signs around the water. If there are warnings against going in the water, do not enter.
Stay out of the ocean if there is no lifeguard on duty.
If you find yourself in a rip current, do not panic. Drowning occurs when a swimmer is afraid, loses focus, and tires themselves out.
Do not fight the current. Instead, swim parallel to shore.
Once you are free, swim at an angle (away from rip current) towards the shore.
If you cannot swim because you do not know how or cannot find your way out of the rip current, float. You will be pushed farther out, but you will not be pulled under the water. Contrary to popular belief, rip currents pull people away from the shore but not under the water.
If you have tried all of the above, and are still not able to get to safety, draw attention to yourself by waving and yelling for help.
REMEMBER: Do NOT try to swim against the rip current. Again, you will tire yourself out and increase your risk of drowning.