Now that summer is finally here, many families will be heading to the beach for some fun in the sun and ocean. And while there is nothing quite like splashing around in ocean waves, being aware of rip tides is a safety precaution you should consider when your child is in the water.
Rip tides appear deceptively calm, but in actuality are strong sea currents which push away from the shore when a strong storm is near, and are formed by the strong winds pushing water towards the shore. They're not just found at the ocean, either―Great Lake beaches have experienced rip tides as well. Sadly, the US Lifesaving Association has found that over 100 people die each year after becoming caught in a rip current.
A Facebook post by former surf lifesaver, Kenny Jewell, went viral in 2015 and has continued to be shared over the years because of his insight into rip tides, first by identifying what one looks like and secondly, what to do if you are caught in a rip tide.
"I constantly find myself when I'm at a beach automatically in patrol mode, and I'm always troubled seeing the amount of swimmers that enter the surf straight into a rip zone," writes Jewell.
Here are some of his pointers to identify a rip tide:
- Often the safest/calmest most enticing-looking area along a beach is usually a rip. A rip is usually the area devoid of wave activity and appears darker and deceptively calmer. It can sometimes appear milky or turbulent, but it is always pretty much void of wave activity. All that water coming in via waves has to go back out somehow, this is what a rip is.
- Always take 5-10 mins when you get to the beach to observe surf conditions and identify where these areas are.
- If you are caught in a rip, DO NOT PANIC. Go into floating mode and raise one arm as a distress signal when possible. See which direction the rip is taking you, is it straight out or at an angle? Once you have determined this, and if you have the energy, swim to the right or left of the direction of flow, never against. If you cannot swim out to either side of the rip, just go with it. Most rips won't take you out very far, and will usually spit you out not long after they take you, so keep calm and save your energy for the swim back to shore.
- Jewell suggests showing children the pictures he posted on his viral Facebook post so that they will be able to identify a rip tide, too. He writes, "You can't always be watching them, and it is only a matter of a few meters each way of the point of entry to the water that could mean them being safe, or instantly caught in a rip."