Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes.
Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer.
Lifeguards rescue tens of thousands of people from rip currents in the U.S. every year, but it is estimated that 100 people are killed by rip currents annually. If caught in a rip current, don’t fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle.
We all love the beach in the summer. The sun, the sand, and the surf. But just because we’re having fun, doesn’t mean we can forget about safety.
Rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues, and can be dangerous or deadly if you don’t know what to do.
Know before you go. Check local beach forecasts before you head to the beach, and always swim near lifeguards. Look for any warning signs or flags. If you’re unsure about conditions, ask a lifeguard. And know how to swim before you venture in.
If you do happen to be caught in a rip current, stay calm. It won’t pull you under – it’ll just pull you away from shore. If you try to fight the rip current and swim against it, you’ll just get worn out. Instead – float!
If you’re a good swimmer, swim parallel to shore until you’ve cleared the pull of the rip current. Swim with the waves, allowing them to push you to shore.
If you can, wave and yell to get the attention of lifeguards and people on shore to let them know you need help.
If you’re on shore and see someone in trouble in a rip current call for help! If a lifeguard is not available, throw in something that floats or extend a reaching object, but don’t try to be a hero and make the rescue yourself. Even trained lifeguards only attempt a rescue using a flotation device.
Rip currents can be dangerous, but if you know your options, survey your situation, and stay calm, you can stay safe and continue to have fun in the surf, sand, and sun.