Rip currents: They’re the most common way beachgoers get into trouble when taking a dip in the ocean. Every year, swimmers and bathers needlessly perish at the hands of these swift-moving currents of water.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Rip currents, common at many beaches, are an easily avoidable danger, and even once a swimmer is caught in one, they can be safely negotiated by those who keep their cool.
In an effort to share the best ways to get out of a rip current, we dialed up North Shore of Oahu lifeguard and professional surfer Dave Wassel. A veteran lifesaver, Wassel has pulled hundreds of swimmers out of rip currents.
“Ask a lifeguard [about where the rip currents are located] and always swim near [a lifeguard]. They can point out the rips and where the safest place to get wet is,” says Wassel.
If you do get caught, you should “go with the flow of the current — don’t fight it,” he adds. “Rip currents are usually not more than 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. Once you get pulled out, swim to the left or right, then come in. Use the waves to push you in, too. As a rule of thumb, blue water is going out, and white water is coming in.”
The main piece of advice many lifesavers will tell you is not to panic; freaking out is really the worst thing you can do. Stay calm, ride out the rip and wave for a lifeguard if there’s one around.
While it may feel like it, a rip current isn’t going to suck you out to sea; they tend to peter out as the current gets past the surf line. Remember the four basic steps: Always ask a lifeguard before entering the water, stay calm, swim parallel to the shore and let the surf push you in.
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