Rip currents. How do the occur? How to stay safe?

Rip currents. How do the occur? How to stay safe?


Forewarned is forearmed, right? Today we'll get armed with knowledge of rip currents. Lifeguards say these are the ones that cause most accidents on the water. To survive, you either have to spot the current in advance and not get into it, or know how to get out of it. Read carefully — we will now learn both.

How does a rip current occur?

These are powerful narrow channels of fast-moving water. The water moves away from the shore, so that a person caught in the stream is quickly carried away into the sea.

Waves from the open sea break constantly on the shore, then the water inevitably flows back into the sea. The “ebb” does not occur in one continuous “front”, but is divided into small channels, each 2-3 meters wide. It is not dangerous.

But the stronger the surf, the stronger the “ebb”, and sometimes the channels are 15-30 meters wide. Speed in them can already reach 3 m/s (!), and the length of the stream quickly withdrawing into the sea is usually about 100-150 m. This already is dangerous!

Such a channel actually is a rip current (or simply a rip). It can occur both at the coasts of open oceans and seas, and even on some lakes. How can one spot a rip current and not get caught into it?

Rip current on the shore

These are the main features of a rip current:

  • The surf line shows a rip of up to 15 meters (rarely up to 50 meters) — hence the name.
  • If waves roll up to the shore with the same foamy hats, and there are no such hats in one section, it is most likely that this is a rip current.

  • There is a real river near the shore, which bubbles and boils, with various organic waste in it carried away from the shore.
  • The waterway stands out against the general color of the sea (i.e. the whole sea is turquoise, but there is a white or brown track).

Coasts where this current can occur usually have ’rip current’ warning signs and red flags. It’s better not to go into the water at all at such places, and if you decide to — be extremely careful.

What to do if you are already caught in the current?

If you are in a stream that takes you away into the sea - do not panic! The main mistake of those who find themselves in this situation is that people begin to swim against the current, directly to the shore. Even experienced swimmers quickly get exhausted, but they still can't get close to the shore.

The most important rule to remember:

Swim not to the shore, but along the shore

The current you’re in is probably quite narrow (about 15 meters), so if you swim perpendicular to the rip, you will soon be able to get out of it and return to the shore.

If you can’t swim out of the stream after a few minutes, you should stop and save your strength. Even if the rip is about 50 meters wide, which is rare, it is probably not longer than 100-150 meters. Let the current carry you away from the shore for that distance.

Don’t worry — the current won’t take you under water, it’s only surface.

When the current weakens, start moving again parallel to the shore. This way you can leave the place where the current can form again. After moving a hundred meters away from the current, you can safely return to the shore.

 Rip current

Be careful and stay safe!


Text: team

Cover photo: Unsplash

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