Beware of Rip Currents

Rip Currents are one of the most dangerous water conditions that can develop along our coastline. According to the USLA, 80% of all beach rescues are caused by these potentially deadly currents – Suddenly sweeping unsuspecting swimmers seaward. Rip currents (rip tide is a misnomer) are formed during periods of high surf and strong westerly winds causing waves to push large amounts of water onto the beach, As this water starts its return flow or backwash it seeks a path of least resistance usually through underwater troughs in the sand or along jetties. This outgoing channel of water becomes a current moving away from the beach. Depending on factors causing their formation, rip currents can vary in size, speed and strength. Some dissipate close to shore, while others can travel for several hundred yards off shore.

Identifying Rip Currents
Rip currents are usually brownish sandy colored, appear rough or choppy and may have foamed debris particles moving steadily seaward ending in a mushroom shape. Waves normally do not break in a rip current channel. To the untrained eye rip currents can be attracted by the relative calmness of the water in the rip current compared to the surf on either side.

 

Components of Rip Currents

1. Head – Rip spreads out and weakens
2. Neck – Actual rip or river of water
3. Feeders – Supply source for the rip.

Escaping from Rip Currents
As dangerous and frightening as rip currents are they are easy to escape from. If you find yourself caught in a rip don't panic or try to swim against the current. Panic and fatigue are what gets swimmers into trouble while in rip currents.

How to Escape From Rip Currents
Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current or float until the current dissipates then swim diagonally to shore. A rip current can only pull you out to sea, it will never pull you under, there is no such thing as an undertow.