Rip Current Safety: Recognizing and Escaping Rip Currents
Living by the beach is one of the main perks of life in Myrtle Beach, however, it’s important to be aware of a serious danger lurking in the water–rip currents. Rip currents are the number one weather-related hazard in the Carolinas. Rip currents kill more people in the Carolinas every year than lightning, extreme heat or even marine life such as sharks. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, an estimated 100 people are killed by rip currents in the U.S. every year and 80% of 84,900 beach rescues in 2016 were rip current-related.
What is a Rip Current?
A rip current is a narrow, fast-moving channel of water moving from close to the shore and out to sea. Rip currents are powerful and can move up to 8 feet per second. To see a rip current from the beach, look for a section of smooth water with waves on either side. The smooth section is likely a rip current. While in the water, many people don’t initially realize they’re caught in a rip current until they struggle to swim back to shore and begin tiring out. However, many have described a feeling of being on a treadmill or conveyor belt in the water when caught in a rip current.
Escaping a Rip Current.
Knowing how to escape a rip current is essential if you’re going to be going into the water at the beach. Rip currents can occur very close to shore and pull you out to very deep waters extremely fast. If you believe you are caught in a rip current, do not swim directly toward shore. Swimming directly toward shore will have you swimming against the current, which will exhaust you quickly and increase risk of drowning. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until you are free from the rip current. You’ll know you are free when you stop feeling water pulling you out to deeper waters and when you are back in an area with normal waves.
Once you have escaped the rip current, if you are too tired to make the swim back to shore or aren’t sure if you are safe yet, tread water and wave your arms above your head. This will alert a lifeguard that you need assistance. Do not call out for friends or family to assist you as they could get caught in the rip current and end up in distress themselves. Always signal for a lifeguard when you need assistance while in the water.
Beach life is fun and exciting but it does have its dangers. Rip currents are one of the most dangerous elements of beach life. Knowing how to recognize a rip current and how to escape one will save your life. A couple final tips–only swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty and never swim after consuming alcohol. Stay safe out there!