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A rip current is a narrow stream of water traveling swiftly away from shore. Rip currents are formed when water piles up on the beach instead of flowing sideways away from the breaking waves as it normally does.
Eventually, so much water builds up that the pressure cuts a narrow path through the waves back out sea. The resulting current can be 30 to 100 feet wide and can move at speeds up to 5 miles per hour.
Rip Currents are very common and can be dangerous to even the most skilled swimmers. To avoid getting into trouble with rip currents:
- Always swim in front of a lifeguard and in designated bathing areas.
- Be aware of your environment. Ask the lifeguards about the water conditions before going in.
- Always obey the lifeguards’ instructions and whistle. They are trained to spot rip currents and keep bathers in the safest area possible.
- Stay in a manageable depth especially if the water is rough, waist to chest deep.
- If you feel yourself being pulled out, move in closer to shore if you are able to walk along the bottom comfortably and safely.
- If you feel yourself being pulled out and cannot make it back in:
- STAY CALM! You will waste far more energy by panicking or fighting it.
- SWIM SIDEWAYS! If you feel yourself being pulled out, swim parallel to the beach – most rip currents are narrow and you can swim out of them to the side. Once you don’t feel the pull out anymore, swim in to shore.
- GO WITH THE FLOW! Even though it will pull you away from the shore, it is safer to allow the rip current to pull you out. Once you don’t feel the pull out anymore, swim sideways if you are able.
- SIGNAL FOR HELP! If you are unable to get back in or swim sideways, wave your arms to signal help from the lifeguards or beach goers.