One person will drown every two or three days this summer… 90% of those deaths will be related to tears. Here are some things to help you and your kids stay safe this summer. I have also put together a few pictures that show what to look for.
1. The simplest thing to remember is that often the safest / calmest and most attractive area along a beach is usually a rip. A tear is usually the area devoid of wave activity and appears darker and deceptively calmer. It can appear milky or turbulent at times, but it is still virtually devoid of wave activity. All this water coming in through the waves has to come out somehow, that’s what a tear is. (see photos).
2. Always take 5-10 minutes when you get to the beach to observe the surf conditions and identify where those areas are.
3. If you get caught in a tear, DON’T PANIC. Go into float mode and raise an arm as a distress signal when possible. See which direction the tear is taking you, is it straight or at an angle? Once you figure this out, and if you have the energy, swim right or left of the direction of flow, never against the tide. Some rips can travel at 3 times the speed of an Olympic swimmer, you won’t win! If you can’t swim to either side of the tear, go for it. Most rips won’t get you very far and will usually spit you out soon after they take you, so stay calm and save your energy for swimming to shore.
4. If you have children, show them these pictures, educate them and sensitize them. You can’t always keep an eye on them, and it’s just a matter of a few feet each way from the point of entry into the water that could mean they’re safe, or instantly caught in a rip.
Obviously, the safest place to swim is always between the flags on a supervised beach, but this is not always practical given the immensity of our coast and the number of beautiful beaches. Of course, there are many other factors that can come into play when it comes to beach safety, but rips are the # 1 killer. They are not difficult to identify and 10 minutes of sighting before entering the surf is. much easier than recovering the body.
* Darker / quieter areas in photos are tears. The one with a purple dye shows a tearing motion. “
The key thing that struck me about these photos is that my kids or I may have chosen these wave breaks as quiet places to spend time in the water. I would never have guessed that a break in the waves could mean a potentially dangerous current. It looks inviting, not scary. Such good information to know.
Knowing how to escape a reverse current is also vital information. This ‘swim parallel to shore’ advice we often hear makes more sense when you see how these currents actually work.
This NOAA video is also helpful in offering more visuals and showing what the feedback currents look like in action:
Rip Current Science
Have fun at the beach this summer, but be careful. And certainly share this information with your children or others who might be drawn to the calmer waters. It could literally save a life.
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