Rip Current Safety Tips & Techniques

Here's a brief look at how to avoid getting caught in a rip current, and how to escape one.
Rip Current, Rip Current safety, Rip Current tips, Rip Current techniques
Rip Current on Grand Avenue Beach with child and parent |Photo by Chris Brewster/USLA/NOAA

The inherent dangers of rip currents were on full display this Memorial Day weekend as three swimmers were killed and over 400 people were rescued near Daytona Beach, Florida. Fortunately, there’s a few ways to avoid getting caught in this dangerous type of narrow water current, which is described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as “currents of water flowing away from the shore at surf beaches” which “extend from near the shoreline, through the surf zone and past the line of breaking waves.” Rip currents pose a significant risk to swimmers.

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First, the NOAA recommends that you check the water conditions at your local beach by both looking up the forecast and talking to the lifeguard on duty at the beach. Next, it’s important that you only swim at a beach with lifeguards. The U.S. Lifesaving Association puts the chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards at 1 in 18 million.

Thirdly, don’t assume anything. Great weather at the beach doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to swim or play in the shallows. Rip currents usually form on warm or sunny days, the NOAA says. It’s also important that you learn how to spot a rip current, which you can do by checking out “Break the Grip of the Rip“, a free online training course offered by the National Weather Service.

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If you’re caught in a rip current, don’t panic and don’t try to swim directly into the shore. According to the NOAA, it’s best that you swim parallel to the shoreline until you escape the current’s pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore. If you’re unable to reach the shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help.

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