Lifeguards around the world, save more people from rip currents than any other ocean danger. Rip currents are the number one killer of beachgoers. Lifeguards perform over 70,000 ocean rescues per year and more than 80% of all lifeguard rescue attempts involve saving someone caught in a rip current. Rip currents claim over 100 victims a year in the USA alone. Lifeguards say more men than women drown in rip currents. During the last 3-day weekend lifeguards had nearly 3000 ocean rescues as massive crowds hit the beaches. With crowds that large parents must be their child’s number one lifeguard. Don’t just roll over and sleep expecting the lifeguard to babysit your child. The guards are watching hundreds of people in the water at the same time. As well lifeguards are dealing with non-water emergencies, like people stung by ray stings and in need assistance from lifeguard equipment such as a sting ray kit. Lifeguards are also dealing with complaints, answering questions and crowd control on top of rescues at the beach.
What exactly is a rip current?
Rip currents or Rips are sometimes called Rip tides, but this is a misnomer because tides play no role in causing these strong off-shore flowing currents. A rip is a strong, localized, and narrow current of water compared to a river running out to sea. The river current runs from shore to sea and can take you with it as it goes. Rips do not pull you under but they do pull you out into the water. Strong rip currents move at speeds of 3 to 8 feet per second. Rip currents can occur anywhere there are breaking waves, including large lakes. There are over 500 lifeguard rescues in the Great Lakes each year. Remember swimming where lifeguards are present can save your life
How to spot a rip current?
Recognizing rip currents can be difficult. Be on the lookout for a channel of churning, foaming, or choppy water where waves are struggling to form. Rip currents are a different color than the surrounding water, because they tend to pick up and stir up sand.
Most rip current deaths are avoidable. Most victims die because they panic, exhaust themselves or lack swimming skills. Lifeguards quickly react to a spotted victims by grabbing their lifeguard equipment essentials; swim fins and rescue tube while racing into the water. Victims that remain calm will more than likely survive. Remember, most rip current deaths happen when people choose to swim without a lifeguard present.
Be sure to heed warnings that are posted and issued by lifeguards. Lifeguards place flags on the beach alerting families of the dangers in the waters. Beware of Red flags. The flag system is just like a traffic light;
Green = Good to Go
Yellow = Caution
Red = Stop
Steps to take when caught in a rip current
Original Watermen, a lifeguard company created by lifeguards for lifeguards lists several steps to help you avoid disaster in an open water rip current. Think twice about entering the water, if you feel a strong pull on your legs in the shallow water. If you find yourself in a rip current, don’t panic. If you feel frightened and are on a beach with a lifeguard, wave your hands thus making yourself more visible. If you feel you are getting swept out to sea stay calm. If you don’t have the swimming skills or energy to swim parallel out of the rip, float on your back and go with the current until the lifeguard is able to come to your rescue. Don’t exhaust yourself by struggling to swim towards shore. The rip current usually disappears after the last set of waves. The lifeguard will bring proper lifeguard equipment with them to bring you safely back to the beach.
If no lifeguard is present we encourage you to ride the rip current until it dissipates and then swim at an angle away from it towards the shore or swim at an angle parallel to the beach in either direction until you feel the rip lighten up before heading back to shore. Rips can be so strong that not even professional swimmers can swim against them. Rip currents are typically only 20-100 feet wide.
Original Watermen Lifeguards have saved hundreds of victims with equipment from our lifeguard store, from rip currents because they are top notch guards using the best open water safety lifeguard equipment on the market.
Remember don’t panic! Go with the flow.