What to Do if You're Caught in a Rip Current

Jul. 19, 2019

As you plan out the final details for some much-needed beach therapy, it’s important to make sure you know what to do in the case of a nearby rip current. 

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, roughly 100 people die every year from rip currents. So, in an effort to keep our guests safe, we’ve curated a list of everything you need to know about rip currents, from spotting one to knowing what to do if you find yourself caught in one. 

What Are Rip Currents?

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that occur along the coasts, as well as the Gulf surrounding our 30A cottages.

Eighty to 90 percent of rips flow in huge circles, traveling from the shallows to the breaking waves and back, moving at speeds of up to eight feet per minute. 

While not every rip current is the same, they occur most frequently at low tides in places where there are significant sandbars near the shore and begin to form where the waves break over the sandbar.

 

How to Spot A Rip Current

Before heading to the beach, it’s always important to check your local conditions and wave forecasts. Waves up to two or three feet high could indicate a strong rip current. However, rips don’t just occur on stormy days, they can be accompanied by sunshine as well, so it’s important to check before you swim.

Spotting a rip current can sometimes be difficult, but not impossible. When you go to the beach, start by observing the water from afar Rip currents are easiest to see at an elevated position, such as the dunes or boardwalk. 

Once you’ve got a good view, look for places where waves aren’t breaking. A spot of stagnant water accompanied by foam or floating sediment being transported away from shore can be a sign that there is a rip in that area. 

 

What to Do If You’re Caught in a Rip Current

In the unfortunate event that you ever do find yourself caught in a rip current, the most important thing to do is stay calm. While your initial reaction might be to try to swim directly out of the current, this could quickly lead to exhaustion. If there is a lifeguard on duty, try waving your hands and calling for help first before springing into action.

The American Lifeguard Association urges those who are caught in a rip to swim out, parallel to the shoreline, then follow the breaking waves back in.

However, new findings suggest that simply floating might now be your best chance for survival. While it might seem like a strange suggestion, due to the tendency of rips to flow in circles, floating could actually allow you to rest and ride the waves back to safety.

It’s important to note that not all rips are made the same, so before deciding whether or not to swim out of the current, try the float method first for two to three minutes. If you realize that the current is not taking you back to shore, then continue by swimming parallel, and taking float breaks, as needed, to regain your breath.

If you realize someone else is caught in a rip, always let a lifeguard make the save. Oftentimes the people who try to make the rescue themselves end up being the ones who drown. Instead, try throwing them something that floats and then immediately call a lifeguard for help.

 

How to Prevent Getting Caught in a Rip Current

When venturing out into the water, it’s important to be aware of its pull. If you find yourself in an area without many surrounding waves and feeling the currents pulling you deeper into the ocean, then chances are you are in a rip current.

If you feel yourself being pulled out, keep both feet planted firmly on the ocean floor to ensure that your nose and mouth stay out of water. If your feet do get swept away, try to reconnect them to the ground as quickly as possible, then dig your feet in the sand for a more solid stance.

It is always important to bring some sort of floatation device with you in the water. In the case of a rip current, you can often float your way out of the rip, or use the float to help you swim safely out.

 


We hope that the beaches of 30A are always a safe and fun time for all, but in the case that disaster does strike we want you to be prepared! Want more tips on staying safe at the beach? Or need help booking your next vacation home? Reach out and someone from our team would be more than happy to help!