How to Get Out of a Rip Current

Tips for safe summer swimming.

(Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
(Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
In the first two weeks of June, two Maryland teens have reportedly died in rip currents in Ocean City.

More than 100 people die in rip currents annually because they can't stay afloat due to factors like exhaustion, panic and lack of swimming skills, according to the United States Lifesaving Association.

Though they do not drag people underwater, rip currents are powerful currents that pull people away from shore.

Here's how to stay safe if you are caught in one, according to the national Rip Current Task Force:
  • Swim parallel to the shore; do not try to swim toward the shore.
  • By swimming parallel to shore, you are likely to get out of the rip current, which tends to be a narrow channel; then swim at an angle in to shore.
  • If you feel tired or don't think you will be able to make it out of the rip current, don't panic. Stay calm and tread water, waving your arms and yelling for help while facing shore.

Though they can form anywhere, rip currents are particularly prone to areas around sandbars, according to Discovery.

Signs of a rip current include noticeable difference in water color; a break in the wave pattern; a line of debris, seaweed or foam moving away from shore; and/or a channel of water that is churning and choppy, according to the United States Lifesaving Association.

At many beaches, lifeguards can provide swimmers with information about the water conditions before they go in. There are also surf zone forecasts that beachgoers can check online from the National Weather Service.

Skye Anderson June 15, 2014 at 08:06 AM
Good info and very timely.


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