How To

How to Identify and Escape Rip Currents

For many, the ocean provides a place of peace and calm to what can be a hectic life. There’s a certain tranquillity which comes with relaxing in water. Maybe it’s the calming sound it offers or the gentle movement.

That said, the water (especially the ocean) can soon become a deadly place if you are not aware of your surroundings. Conditions in the water can change in an instant, and without warning too.

As well as potentially harsh conditions, rip currents can also be a threat due to the fact that they aren’t easy to identify and can pull you out to sea faster than an Olympic swimmer can swim.

How to Identify a Rip Current

By Invertzoo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By Invertzoo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Surprisingly, rip currents often look like the safest part of the sea to swim in. This is because they usually break any waves, smoothing them out.

Rip currents are formed by a channel of sand being pushed apart from incoming waves. As the waves then draw back out to sea, the water flows much quicker where the channel has been formed, creating the rip current. Anyone who swims close to or in this channel will soon find themselves heading a short distance out to sea.

Here are the signs to look out for in a rip current:

  • Channel of flatter, white water leading out to sea
  • A break in the waves where the current is
  • Debris moving straight out to sea
  • Rip current finishes in a head, which is typically mushroom shape where water disperses

How to Swim in a Rip Current

The first move in being able to survive a rip current is knowing what one looks like. It is far better to avoid them, than to learn how to swim in them.

That said, accidents happen and if you do get caught off guard, there are certain ways you can ensure you come out relatively unharmed. It’s important to note that rip currents won’t pull you underwater.

  • Stay calm and don’t try to fight the movement – you’ll waste energy
  • Let the current take you out until the end
  • At the head of the rip current, the water should disperse and it will be much less intense
  • Next, swim parallel to the beach until you are away from danger
  • Swim diagonally back to shore, away from the current

The most crucial thing if you get caught in a rip current is to remain calm. People often make the mistake of trying to fight and swim against it. Even the very best swimmers won’t be able to do this, you’ll waste energy and tire yourself out.

It will be scary, but if you just let the water drag you out, you’ll reach a point where the rip current stops. This is when you can make your move back to land. While the water is dragging you, lie on your back if you are struggling to stay afloat.

Take-Away Tips

Remember, currents often look like the flattest part of the sea due to the fact they slice through waves. If you are unsure, ask a lifeguard if there are any danger spots; they will be able to identify them for you.

You should always make sure someone knows you are going swimmer, no matter how good you are. Finally, try not to swim out of your depth because conditions can change in an instant.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ActionHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.

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