Published: Saturday, August 14, 2010
The ocean is not a big swimming pool, it's a very powerful body of water that covers roughly 2/3rd's of the earths surface. Many people go to the beach, especially during the summer months. As swimmers you should always swim near a lifeguard, but all the beaches are not guarded. In some locations around the world the beach is patrolled each and everyday. During the summer, more lifeguard stands are up to keep up the demand for ocean rescues. But what happens if you go to an unguarded beach?
You enter the water with no lifeguards around. You're playing and swimming, maybe bodyboarding, and then it happens. YOU ARE CAUGHT IN A RIP CURRENT! A rip current is a suction of water that pulls you away from the sand into open and deeper water. Now what are you going to do?? Rip currents are the #1 killer of people in the state of Florida, lightning is #2.
First thing to do is not to swim directly back to the sand where you entered the water. Next you must not panic (this only makes things worse). Many people who have panicked lose all motor functions of the human body. You have to remain calm and keep your wits about you. Clear thinking is the only way to survive. Now you have adhered to not panicking, but you are still being pulled into the opean ocean.
Swim parallel to the shore so you can escape the pull out, but before you enter the water above chest deep, look at what's going on in the water. The ocean has lateral currents that move up or down the shoreline, so it's very important to recognize this. If other swimmers are drifting along the shore this is your clue on what direction to swim. It's like riding your bike; would you rather ride with the wind, or against it?? Swimming in chest deep water or deeper will not allow you to move as freely as in shallower water or on land. If the drift is moving from left to right, swim in that direction. If the drift is moving from right to left, swim in that direction. The movement of the drift will push you out of the current more easily.
Once you have swam out of the current the pull or suction out to sea will decrease. Here is where you can start to swim back into the beach. Body surfing in the waves will also help push you into the shore from where you started this campaign. If you follow these tips for getting out of a rip current, you will have many more times to go out and have ocean fun without getting in over you head. Another key is, "when in doubt, don't go out". Never swim near a pier or jetty (rip currents are along the pilings of the pier and along the sides of jetties.