A rip current, also known as a rip tide, is explained as an intense conduit of water that flows seaward from the surf line. They transpire when the wind and waves push water towards the shore, which is forced sideways by the oncoming waves. It will stream along the shore until it discovers a reprieve back to the open sea water or lake.
Usually, the flow is approximately one to two feet each second and travels as fast as eight feet per second. These currents occur at any beach with breaking waves. Tides can become strong when the surf is coarse or when the tide is minimal. It can become especially dangerous to swim three hours before and after the maximum low tide because rips flow the fastest around the low tide period.
It may not seem risky, but they are particular hazardous. Statistics have shown the dangers of rip currents and also the paucity of knowledge pertaining to them. Authorities have posted warning signs near beaches that warn visitors to not go near the water because these unseen currents have killed a number of people.
In the United States, for example, rip tides kill approximately 100 people each year and account for 80 percent of all lifeguard rescues.
Why are they so dangerous? Well, for one, according to WebMD, a large number of beaches across the U.S. do not consist of lifeguards. Secondly, swimmers are unaware of rip currents and the effects they impose.
Rip currents drag swimmers away from the beach and in most cases has led to drowning when the swimmers attempt to fight the current, panic and become extremely fatigued. Even non-swimmers have to be cautious because if a person stands waist deep in the water, the rips can drag someone deeper into the water.
How came someone survive a rip tide? Experts suggest not to try to swim back against the rip because of the threat of exhaustion – remember a rip does not drown someone just takes them farther away from the shore. Another piece of advice experts offer is to swim parallel to the shore until the swimmer is outside of the channel. If that is not possible due to a strong rip, then a swimmer must relax and float.
“The one factor that is most tragic about rip-current deaths is they wouldn’t happen if there were lifeguards,” said Peter Wernicki, MD, medical advisor to the U.S. and World Lifesaving Associations in an interview with the medical publication.
“I think a large number of people who go to the beach are from inland. They are not good swimmers; they are not familiar with ocean currents. They don’t have a clue what to do in an emergency. I think they are lured onto unprotected beaches. ‘Come to our beach, it is clean,’ they say. But maybe if they were better informed they would choose to go to beaches with lifeguards.”