Thursday, May 11, 2017

How to Get Out of Rip Currents and Riptide Safety

When we think of the beach, we always picture a calm, sunny paradise, relaxing waves, and people lounging under big beach umbrellas.  The beach is awesome and I know many of you are thinking of heading there very soon!  And I hope you have a glorious time.  BUT THE BEACH IS DANGEROUS TOO.  Today I'm sharing our scary experience with riptide currents just a month or so ago and how to recognize and avoid riptides.  I want you to be aware of what to do instead and be like I was and not know anything about it.  Safety and being prepared is a huge part of living a blissful life, so pay attention to our scary riptide experience and tips on how to get out of a rip current.  It could save your life.

Last month my husband and I took our little family to San Diego, CA to play on the beach and enjoy a little warmth for spring break.  We have not been to the beach very much since most of our lives we've lived in land-locked areas.  But seriously, we thought how hard can it be to hang out at the beach?  Beaches are the most peaceful places in the world.  No big deal.  So we grabbed out swim gear and went.

Well on our first day at the beach, we took some boogie boards with us.  My teenagers had a blast riding them out in the waves with my husband while I stayed near the shore with my youngest daughter.  I took all kinds of pictures and video of all our fun moments.  Then randomly at one point I noticed my husband was going pretty far out into the ocean.  He was just a tiny speck in my camera lens.  And right at that moment, the lifeguard truck drove past us, parked on the beach near where my husband was.  They were planning to go out and get him.  They could see from the tower that he was stuck in a riptide current!  Luckily, my husband was able to get out of it and free himself of the strong current that kept pulling him out farther into the ocean.  The lifeguards chatted with him to see if he was okay and that was that.  Or so I thought . . .

There's more to this story.  Read on . . . 

This isn't the best picture because I took it with my cell phone and zoomed in, but that is my husband about the time he was starting to be pulled away by the riptide.  I had no idea.  He's that little head out there.  The other person is my daughter.

Feeling safe again after my husband's close call, and feeling grateful for good lifeguards we went back to playing at the beach.  My teens, unaware of what had happened with my husband continued on their boogie boards.  My husband stayed near the shore to build a sand castle with Baby Girl.  And me?  I went to soak up the sun in my beach chair and take a nap (yeah, awesome parenting on my part, I know).   Well, as my husband was focusing on the sand castle, he suddenly had a feeling to go check on my teenage son who was out on the boogie board.  So he got up immediately and could tell right away that my 13 year old boy was struggling in a riptide.  Call it "father's intuition", luck, or what you will, but we call it help from God.  My husband did not hesitate and quickly headed out there.  He was able to grab our boy out of the rip current.  Because the area was still shallow enough for my husband to touch the ground, he could grab my son.  The water was too deep for my son though and he was being pulled out to sea and had no idea what to do.  We are truly grateful that they were okay.  Needless to say, we took a break from boogie boards for the rest of our trip.

This was an important lesson for us to learn.  I am truly grateful to God for watching over us once again.  Beaches imply serenity but need to be taken seriously when it comes to safety.  I want you to know of our mistake, so you can be aware and not make the same dangerous mistake.  We did not know much about riptides.  Now we do.  We've talked to our children about them and helped them know what to do.  Keep reading and you can be informed with the following 5 important tips about riptide safety.

Here's important rip current information and tips for you when you head to beach this summer so you can stay safe:

1.  What is a riptide current?

A rip current is a strong, narrow current that can pull a swimmer out to sea.  It's localized in a certain area and moves perpendicular from the beach.  They can come quickly and unexpectedly near the surface of the water.  It's caused by the actions of the waves crashing on the shore and moving back out to sea.

2.  How to recognize a rip current

There is a lot that goes into recognizing a rip current.  Sometimes they are hard to identify (so check out the video below!)  Some things you can check  for are gaps in the breaking waves where the rip is forcing it's way back.  Also, floating objects that move steadily back to sea or discolored water at the shore.  Rip currents often look like a calm area to swim where there are no waves.  You can sometimes spot them from an elevated position above the shore.  This article explains many details about recognizing rip currents.  You can tell you are in a rip current if you are being pulled quickly out to sea.  Normally, the waves will keep bringing you back to the shore, but with a rip current you are going away from the shore.

3.  How to prevent getting caught in a rip current

First and foremost don't go in the water if there is any known danger of a riptide.  Check with the weather forecast and the lifeguards at the beach before entering and check the signs too.  Beaches will often post signs or flags about the safety of the water that day.  Rip currents are more likely to happen when it's windy but they can happen unexpectedly too.  Make sure and be in the water with your kids (even teenagers).

4.  How to get out of a rip current

Even the strongest swimmers cannot go against a rip current, so don't try.  You cannot swim against it.  The best thing to do is swim laterally, or parallel to the shore, to get out.  Rip currents are usually narrow so swimming sideways help you get out and back to normal waves.  Once you are out of the strong rip, you can swim diagonally back to shore.

5.  If you cannot get out

If you are struggling to get out of the current, even by swimming parallel to the shore, don't panic.  Save your energy and think clearly.  Tread water and float calmly because the current will eventually let up and you will be able to swim back to shore if you have energy.  Also, try to attract attention to yourself so a lifeguard can help you (a good reason to only swim where lifeguards are on duty).

For More Information:

Get more information from these awesome sources as well as this helpful video from Gwithian Academy of Surfing:

The Dangers of Riptides and How to Safeguard Against Them

Rip Currents 101

Learn How to Identify Rip Currents So You Don't Die on Spring Break

Dr. Beach's Survival Guide

National Weather Service Rip Current Photos

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