According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rip currents account for 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. They can be deadly if a swimmer doesn’t know what to do when caught in one. Here is some vital safety information from NOAA that could save your life or the life of someone you love.
What is a rip current?
Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. They typically form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as jetties and piers. Rip currents are quite common and can be found on many surf beaches every day, including Great Lakes beaches. They do not pull people under the water – they pull people away from shore.
- LINK: NWS Surf Zone Forecasts
- PDF: NOAA Rip Current Fact Sheet
- VIDEO: Watch below video from NOAA on rip currents & how to escape
What are the signs of a rip current?
- A channel of churning, choppy water.
- A difference in water color.
- A line of foam, seaweed or debris moving seaward.
- A break in the incoming wave pattern
How to Escape
- Stay calm.
- 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 are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
- 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.
- Watch below video to see how to escape a rip current
How do I help someone else?
Don’t become a victim while trying to help someone else! Many people have died in efforts to rescue rip current victims.
- Get help from a lifeguard.
- If a lifeguard is not present, yell instructions on how to escape.
- If possible, throw the rip current victim something that floats.
- Call 9-1-1 for further assistance.
Know How to Swim
Know How To Swim! Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds and currents that can change suddenly.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
- Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
- Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
- Yellow: medium hazard
- Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
- Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life, but not sharks.
Take your cell phone to the beach. In case of an emergency, where the lifeguard is not present, call 911.