The ocean has a lot of currents and for the uninitiated or land-dwellers, they can be dangerous.    One of those currents is called a rip current which is often mistakenly called a riptide.

What is a Rip Current?

A rip current is a particular flow of ocean water caused by the tide.  When the water becomes restricted through the ocean floor, the coastline and the flow of water, it forms something akin to a powerful river.  When a person gets caught in a rip current it will pull you out into the ocean.  If you try to swim against it you will more than likely drown.  It is too strong for even the strongest swimmer.

How to Escape a Rip Current

rip current escapeThink of a rip current as a river that runs perpendicular to the coastline.  That river is about 10-12 feet across and is very strong.  To escape you must do the following:

  1.  DON’T Panic.  A rip current is something you can escape with the right techniques.  Panic will more than likely cause you to drown.
  2. Look at the Shoreline and Swim Parallel.  A rip current is typically only 10-12 feet across.  Swim parallel to the shore for a good 20 feet to make sure you are out of the current.  Then swim towards shore.  If you still feel resistance swim a bit further parallel to the beach.
  3. Swim to Shore – Once you are out of the rip current you should be able to get to the shore fairly quickly as the current will help bring you in.  If you still feel resistance keep swimming parallel until you are out of it.

The length of a rip current is typically only about 1/4 mile out.  It doesn’t flow forever so don’t panic and think you’ll end up in Antarctica.  Just calm yourself and swim horizontal.   Panic can actually cause a drowning.

Respect the Red Flag

Typically on more popular beaches that have lifeguards, they are clued in to as too whether or not a riptide is present.  They typically will flag the beach like they do in the above picture.  Although as you can see many people ignore it.  It’s not worth your life.  If a beach is red-flagged, make it a day to go explore something else.

Enjoy the beach as that is why you come.  But respect the dangers.  A little common sense can save a lot of lives.