Rip Current Myth
According to the National Weather Service, a rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water--they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.
How to look for a rip current:
- a channel of churning, choppy water
- an area having a notable difference in water color (which may be brown due to sand and sediment from the ocean bottom being churned up)
- a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
- a break in the incoming wave pattern (waves meeting from two different directions)
- Rip currents are often not easily identifiable to the average beachgoer.
- Polarized sunglasses make it easier to see the rip current clues provided above.
How to Avoid and Survive Rip Currents
Learn how to swim!
- Never swim alone.
- Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don't go out! • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
- Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
- If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Don't fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
- If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911. If you are close enough, and have something that floats, throw the victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
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