Who doesn’t enjoy a great day at the beach, especially when the waves are crashing for a fun day of splashing in the surf? Unfortunately a fun day on the shoreline can can quickly turn into a day of panic and terror! Rip tides, more accurately known as rip currents, are dangerous to swimmers of all skill levels, and can be a threat even in shallow waters! Here is a guide to rip tides and swim safety, so you can stay safe in the water!
What Is A Rip Tide?
Rip tides are powerful, narrow water currents that moves directly away from the shore. They typically occur near beaches that have breaking waves, where sand bars, piers, and jetties are present. Rip tides from as breaking waves push water toward the shore, which flow together, then flow rapidly back out to open water.
Sand bars play an integral part in the formation of rip tides. Water gains momentum as it passes over a sand bar, and forms the current in the canyon between sand bars. However, a rip tide comes to a head once it has passed back through the sand bars, sometimes up to 100 yards from the shore.
Rip tides can form even when only seemingly small waves are present! As long as there are breaking waves, it is possible that a rip tide can form! These currents can can travel up to 8 feet per second, flowing along the top of the water, making them very dangerous to swimmers and floaters! Some beaches and shoreline areas are more susceptible, depending on the topography of the area below the surface, so it can be useful to research ahead of time if rip tides have a tendency of occurring there.
What To Do If Caught In A Rip Tide
- Don’t panic! This can create more danger and prevent you from successfully exiting the rip tide!
- Do not try to swim directly back toward the shore. You will just exhaust you; the current will be too strong!
- Try to swim out of the current at a 90 degree angle, parallel to the beach. Once out of the current, swim diagonally back to the shore, away from the current.
- If you cannot swim out, tread water and float to allow yourself to be swept along with the current. Raise a hand up if possible to make yourself visible to lifeguards and beachgoers, and yell for help. Once you have reached the current’s calm head, swim diagonally back to the shore.
How To Identify A Rip Tide
Although rip tides are hard to spot from the shore, there are plenty of characteristics to look for on days where breaking waves are present! Perhaps the biggest identifier of a rip tide is a calm area amongst waves, usually a wide strip. Look for a moving river of foam, which is caused by water stirring up beneath the surface, and will oftentimes have debris along with it and will be moving away from the beach. Rip tides are usually a different color than the surrounding water, either lighter or darker, and frequently appear murky from sand and debris.
Other Swimming Safety Tips
- Try to swim at beaches where a lifeguard is present, especially if it is an area where rip tides and dangerous currents are known to occur frequently.
- Never swim alone, especially in secluded areas!
- Check the current water conditions, which are usually posted at a lifeguard station, to know the risk of dangerous currents which could potential be present.
- Practice swimming skills before going to an ocean or beach to ensure that you can swim out of a current or escalated situation if you find yourself in one!
Now that you know how identify rip tides, you can hopefully avoid them altogether, and can safely escape one if you get whisked away! Follow these guidelines to rip tides and swim safety and you’ll be safe in the water! Have any other tips, or have you experienced a rip tide before? Share your insights and experiences with us in the comments!