80% of all open water rescue attempts are due to riptides, and they claim over 100 victims a year.
Rip currents are channels of water which flow away from the shore and out to sea. As waves come into the shore, water piles up and needs somewhere to go. Instead of returning over the reef or sandbar from which it came, the current may take the path of least resistance and be funneled into a channel between two obstacles.
If you get caught in a riptide, here’s what to do:
Don’t panic. Rip currents won’t pull you under — they’re just channels of moving water. And while they can extend a ways out, they do eventually dissipate, most within 50-100 feet of the shoreline.
Don’t try to swim against the rip. Deaths that result from riptides aren’t caused by the current pulling someone under; instead, the person typically panics, starts trying to swim against the rip to get back to shore, becomes exhausted, and drowns.
Swim parallel to the shore. Instead of swimming against the rip current, you want to swim perpendicular to it, in either direction. Rip currents are typically only 20-100 feet wide. Once you leave the rip, swim at an angle away from it towards the shore.
Go with the flow. If you don’t have the swimming skills or energy to swim out of the rip, float on your back and go with the current. Once the rip current dissipates, you can do the parallel swim thing or try to signal to the lifeguard or someone else that you’re in need of help.
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