Surf Safety: Rip Currents
Written June 3, 2013, photos by Kathleen Sayce and Doug Knutsen
|From the air, the beach looks placid; however, a series of rip currents are active all along this summer beach. Photo by Kathleen Sayce|
Where Rip Currents FormLearn where rip currents are likely to form and what they look like: A spot in the surf line where the break is delayed a few seconds, or where foam or brown water (with sand in it) moves seaward as waves move landward indicates a gap in sand bars; the water may also be smoother in these gaps.
|Rip currents are hard to see at beach level, but the breaks in sand bars are not. There's a strong rip between these two sand bars. Photo by Doug Knutsen.|
Safety: Swim parallel to the BeachI don’t know a swimmer in the world who can swim against a rip current and win. Know what to do in a rip: Call for help immediately. Swim parallel to the beach, across the current, until you are out of it. Then swim back to shore.
Pets are vulnerable tooPets also drown in the surf. If you are tossing sticks in the water for your dog to retrieve, avoid likely rip current areas and back channels with strong currents. If your dog is caught in a rip current, move up or down the beach away from the current, and call your dog to swim to you. This will encourage the dog to swim out of the current. When the surf is high, keep your dog out of the water. Dogs are naturally strong swimmers, and more buoyant than humans, but sending them into high surf and rip currents is pushing their abilities to the limit.
Doug Knutzen, SPCTR, drove the beach with me to talk about rip currents, sand bar structure, and beach safety.