As we get rolling through the summer, you may be headed down to the coast. And I know a lot of people may be afraid to go out into the Gulf for a lot of different reasons. When you head to the beach, the most dangerous thing you’ll find in the water isn’t a jellyfish or a shark.. It’s a rip current. We’ve already had 4 deaths directly tied to rip currents along Gulf beaches this year, two in Panama City Beach, one in Destin and one in Gulf Shores. We’re entering the busiest time of the year at the beaches, and we want you to be prepared in case you or someone you know is in the grip of a rip current.
First, knowing what rip currents look like when you’re standing on the beach is the most important way to avoid them. Rip currents are powerful conveyor belts of water that move away from the shore. They can sweep even the strongest swimmers out to the open water very quickly. When you’re on the beach, look for gaps in the waves breaking on the shore. This is a huge warning sign that a rip current has developed.
But, if you happen to get caught in a rip current, there are some simple things to remember to get yourself out of it. First, relax. Rip currents are quicksand and don’t pull you under. They are strong currents that push you out. If you try to swim against a rip current, toward the shore, you’ll fight a losing battle and only use up precious energy. The best way to escape is to swim parallel to the shore until you escape the current. Once you’ve done that, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.
If you aren’t a strong swimmer, try to stay calm, wave your arms and yell for help. Swimming near a lifeguard is always a good idea, but especially if you don’t have strong swimmers in your group.
You should also check the beach forecast and watch for flags flying around the beach for current hazards. Red flags can indicate hazardous swimming conditions, but rip currents can form quickly without much warning.
Or, maybe just remember this when heading to the beach and you’re unsure of the conditions beyond the shore.. WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT.