I read an interesting article today, which made me eager to increase the awareness in the subject of rip currents. Rip currents are strong channels of water flowing away from the shoreline, typically through the surf line, and can occur on any shore that has breaking waves. They are the leading cause of beach drowning. Rip currents are not the same as undertows! Rip currents are formed when water flow is disrupted. This can occur from human-engineered structures such as piers. It disrupts the water flow by deflecting water seaward at a very fast rate. Speeds of rip currents vary greatly, usually ranging from 1-3 feet per second, but have gotten as fast as 8 feet per second.
In the article, by Aquatics International, entitled “Getting Current,” an Olympic gold medal swimmer was placed in the center of a very strong rip current. He was unable to swim against the current despite being a record holding swimmer. Therefore, it’s very important to teach people, especially those around currents such as these, that when caught in a rip current, you must swim parallel to the beach until the current weakens before attempting to swim back to the shore. Fighting the current requires much more work, and in fact can result in death or long-lasting injury. Please be safe and remember…always trust your gut instincts about getting into the water.