June 3-9 is Rip Current Awareness Week in Florida

Florida rip current (credit: Dennis Decker)

Florida rip current (credit: Dennis Decker)

Florida Travel Guide: Rip Current Safety Tips

Rip currents claim more lives than they should in Florida each year. They are, without a doubt, the number one concern of lifeguards on Florida’s beaches. That’s because there can be very strong rip currents on seemingly pleasant days and many swimmers are simply neither expecting to get caught in one, nor are they prepared as to what to do should that happen.

Rip Current Awareness Week

June 3-9 marks Rip Current Awareness Week and since tropical storms and hurricanes can lead to rip currents and we’ve had an early start to hurricane season in Florida this year, we thought it prudent to share some tips with you so you can protect yourself on Florida’s beaches.

What is a rip current?

A rip current will form when water piles up on the beach rather than flowing away from the waves like it normally does, parallel to the shore. What results is a very narrow stream of water traveling very quickly away from the shore.

So much water eventually builds up in the current that pressure creates a skinny path back out to sea. The current can be 30 to 100 feet in width and it can move as fast as 5 miles per hour.

Why are rip currents dangerous?

Rip currents drag swimmers out to deep water. When you don’t know how to maneuver a rip current, your instinct may be to swim against the current to get back to shore. When this happens, you can become exhausted and you may drown from not being able to keep yourself afloat any longer. It is also possible for non-swimmers to drown in rip currents by simply wading in the water. The current can be strong enough to pull you off your feet and drag you out to sea and when you can not swim, you can very easily drown.

How to swim out of a rip current

First of all, if you don’t know how to swim, know how to spot a rip current to try to avoid walking into one while wading in the waves. If you do know how to swim, never swim where there are no lifeguards and always look out for rip currents before walking into the water.

Should you find yourself in a rip current, being pulled out to sea, do not panic. You can swim out of a rip current by swimming parallel to the shore. Swim so that the shore is on your right or left side and never, ever, ever swim against the current. You can’t beat it. If the current pulls you under, it will spit you back out and you need your strength to get back to safety.

How to spot a rip current

You can sometimes visually spot a rip current. A rip current will look sort of like a miniature river on the ocean’s surface, that flows away from the beach. They can be foamy and brownish in color, flattening incoming waves making the sea look mysteriously calm. Past the breakers the current will appear to disperse and form a mushroom shape.

Tell us…

Have you ever been caught in a rip current?