The first week in June is Rip Current Awareness week, a time to remind swimmers of the dangers they could face in the ocean. As surfers we are forever pulling tourists, swimmers, and beginners out of the water where ever we are in the world. If we all share this video, then all “non-surfing” friends and visitors may be better educated on beach safety and it could prevent more casualties in the future!
As a ‘Surf-Safety’ presenter I constantly speak to those who have not grown up close to the beach. These guys arrive in Australia with the sudden urge to head straight to the beach and jump in the water! Too many times watching Bondi Rescue (check it out here) and surfing the city beaches I see tourists jump in the water, get taken out back with the current and require a rescue by a lifeguard or surfer. The main reason people may enter the rip is because it looks like a calmer place to swim at a beach with waves. At a popular surfing beach, most surf lessons or surfers locate themselves in the spot with waves (actually the safest place to be). As a result, non-surfers avoid these areas and choose to swim where it looks like the water is calmer. When a rip current forms, it can turn a beautiful day at the beach into a dangerous, or even deadly situation.
A rip current is basically a current of water moving away from the beach. Sometimes it can be very strong; even enough to sweep away a strong or experienced swimmer. It can be likened to an endless treadmill for a runner. When a runner gets tired they would fall off the back. When a swimmer gets tired they can find themselves in serious trouble (see below for diagram).
image courtesy of http://www.lifesavingvictoria.com.au/
Rip currents kill more people on average than bushfires, cyclones, floods, and shark attacks, according to a new study (read more here). As a qualified lifeguard I can offer this advice if anyone finds themselves in a rip:
- Stay Calm
- Swim parallel to the shore to make your way out of the rip
- OR stay in place, keep your head above the water and signal for help.
- NEVER try to swim directly against a rip.
For anyone who may see someone in trouble in the rip, I recommend informing the nearest lifeguard or shouting directions out to the swimmer. Many people get into trouble by actually trying to save someone from a rip. They get caught in the same thing and often a swimmer in distress can pull another swimmer down. I also recommend speaking with lifeguards about rip current conditions before getting into the ocean. You can also check out all the latest information / training regarding rips at the National Weather Service website.