Know How to Be Safe Around Rip Currents
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Virginia Beach is heating up and there's nothing like a dip in the ocean to cool down! As we all start heading out to the beach this summer, it's a good time for a reminder on how to stay safe when a rip current is present.
A rip current is a strong current flowing away from shore, visible as a band of agitated water. They usually form at breaks in sandbars and near structures such as jetties or piers. Rip currents don't actually pull you under the water; they pull you away from shore, sometimes as fast as 8 feet per second. That means rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer away from the shoreline which is where fear, panic, exhaustion or lack of swimming skills can make for a very dangerous situation.
There are clues that a rip current might be present. Look for a channel of choppy water where there is a difference in color, or where sediment is churning. You may also notice a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving out to sea, or even a break in the incoming wave pattern.
Just like a treadmill uses an endless belt on which you can walk or run, a rip current has the same effect. No matter how fast or hard you move on the unstoppable treadmill, you are not able to get anywhere unless you step to the side. If you are caught in a rip current, remain calm so that you conserve energy and think clearly. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. Once you are out of the rip current, swim at an angle back to the shoreline. If you are unable to swim out of the current, float or tread water until the current ends, then begin your swim back to shore.
If you are can't reach the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arms and yelling for help. If you see someone in trouble, first get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, call 9-1-1. Do not swim out to them, because you may become a victim as well. Instead throw something that floats to them and yell instructions on how to escape.
Rip currents account for 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. In order to have a fun and safe experience at the beach, know how to swim, remain in an area with lifeguards and be cautious at all times!