Why Rip Currents Can Kill You and How to Avoid Them!
Updated: Aug 7, 2018
You probably heard that several years ago two #kiteboarder’s drowned in Tarifa after being dragged out to the ocean by a strong rip current. It wasn’t typical #kitesurfing accident; every #surfer or swimmer could have been in the same situation. It is important to understand why it happened and what to do to prevent similar situations in the future. Here is a brief explanation of the situation:
If someone is caught by the rip current, the only way is to swim with medium speed PARALLEL to the shoreline until you are out of the current and then you can swim back to the beach.
Due to the lack of knowledge about #rip_currents we decided to clarify all doubts and questions you may have.
1. WHAT IS A RIP CURRENT?
Rip currents are powerful channelled streams of water moving away from a coast. They can be widely found on many beaches every day.
2. HOW RIP CURRENTS FORM?
Rip currents form when the water flows back to the ocean with a powerful channelled stream of water moving perpendicular to the coast. Rip currents form near the coastline when waves break, concentrating water between the beach and breaking waves.
3. HOW TO IDENTIFY A RIP CURRENT?
You can see a channel of choppy water.
You can see a difference in water colour.
You can see a line of seaweed or foam moving towards the sea.
One, all or none of the signs can be visible.
4. ARE ALL RIP CURRENTS DANGEROUS?
Rip currents are present on many beaches every day of the year, but usually they are too slow to be dangerous to beach goers. However, under certain wave, tide, and even beach shape conditions rip currents can quickly change and increase to dangerous speeds. As wave height and wave period increase also the speed and strength of a rip current increase.
5. CAN YOU USE RIP CURRENTS?
Many experienced surfers use rip currents to pass over the wave zone. However, in order to do this, it takes years of practice and caution must always be taken when “reading” the ocean. So, if you are a beginner surfer you must avoid rip current at all times. Rip current speed always fluctuate and can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the water.
6. WHY RIP CURRENTS ARE DANGEROUS AND CAN KILL THE PEOPLE?
Rip currents are dangerous when swimmers are pulled offshore and are unable to keep themselves floating to swim back to the beach. Typically, it’s due to combination of panic, fear, exhaustion or lack of swimming skills. Rip currents can sweep even the greatest swimmer out to sea and are mainly dangerous for weak people and non-swimmers.
7. WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT RIP CURRENTS
Rip current speeds always vary. Average speeds are 0.3-0.5 m/s, but they have been measured as fast as 2.5 m/s — even faster than an Olympic swimmer!
Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 meters wide.
Sometimes rip currents end just outside the line of breaking waves; but, they may continue to pull hundreds of meters offshore.
Rip currents do not pull people under the water — they pull people towards the sea.
Do not mistake rip currents for “#riptides” or “undertows”. They are different and you can read about the differences between them here
8. SAFETY TIPS
Always know how to swim.
You should never swim alone.
Look for posted signs and warning flags, which may indicate higher than usual hazards.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
Be cautious at all times. Rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
If in doubt, don’t go out!
9. IF CAUGHT IN A RIP CURRENT:
Stay calm and don’t fight the current.
Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle — away from the current — toward shore.
If you can’t escape, float or tread water.
If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call or wave for help.
10. CAN YOU HELP SOMEONE ELSE?
Don’t become a victim while trying to help someone else! Many people have died trying to rescue rip current victims. Get help from a lifeguard.
If a lifeguard is not present, shout instructions on how to escape.
If possible, throw something that floats to the victim.
Call 911 for further assistance.
Happy and safe kiting and surfing!