|Rip current at Carolina Beach, NC Photo courtesy of NOAA, |
via Carolina Beach Police Department
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for beach goers, particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Their speed is generally one to two feet per second but water speeds can reach as high as eight feet per second - faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint. More than 100 drownings a year occur in the United States due to rip currents. Rip currents are also the cause of the majority of water rescues.
- A channel of churning, choppy water moving perpendicular from shore
- An area of light, sandy color water different from the surrounding ocean water
- Sea foam or debris moving steadily out to sea
- A break in the incoming wave pattern
- Don’t Panic. Remain calm to help you think clearly and conserve energy.
- Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction parallel to shore. Once out of the current’s pull, start to swim towards the shore.
- Draw Attention. If you are unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself so lifeguards and other beachgoers will spot you. Face shore, wave your arms and yell for help. If you are at the beach and notice someone in trouble, notify a lifeguard or call 911. Try throwing something that floats to the victim and yell instructions on how to escape the current. Do not try to rescue the person yourself. Many people drown attempting to save someone else.
- Green means low risk.
- Yellow indicates a moderate risk. Weak swimmers are discouraged from entering the water.
- Red warns of a high rip current risk with high wave and surf action. This category implies all swimming in the surf is life threatening.