In an effort to heighten public awareness of rip currents at surf beaches, each year NOAA designates the first full week of June as national Rip Current Awareness Week, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season. Rip currents are water moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching 8 feet per second; this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! On average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks, tornadoes or lightning. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.
About Rip Currents:
Rip currents can be found on many surf beaches every day. Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. The definition of rip current is: A powerful channel of water that flows away from the shore. They can be narrow or more than 50 yards wide.
Rip Current Myth:
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 Avoid and Survive Rip Currents:
- 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 9-1-1. Throw the rip current 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.
For more information about rip current safety visit NOAA‘s website.