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How To Keep Kids Safe from Rip Currents

Dr. Peter Wernicki of the American Red Cross demonstrates how to identify dangerous rip currents.

Wed, 22 Aug 2012|

-What a rip current is is when all the water comes in with the waves up toward the shore. It has to go back out some way and, oftentimes, there are sandbars. The water goes over the sandbars and then it sweeps around. It comes back out and breaks between the sandbars. And it almost forms a river of water heading back out to sea. Many times, you can't see them by looking at it, but there are several signs that will clue you in to them being there. Sometimes, there'll be a break in the waves in that area. They won't be breaking as heavily. Sometimes, they'll be churned up sand, but you can see for a distance heading back out towards the ocean. What you don't wanna do is turn around and try and swim directly against the rip current. Most swimmers are not strong enough to do that and you'll end up wasting a lot of energy and not making a lot of headway. What you wanna do is swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip current because a rip current is usually only 50 or a 100 feet wide. So, you only have to swim 50 or a 100 feet. You'll be out of the rip current. You'll be back into calm water and you can easily get back into shore. As you look down the beach and you see the curling, breaking waves, in areas where there are rips, there'll be less of those waves breaking there. So, as you scan- and it won't be universal. But as you scan, you'll see that there is less breaking in certain areas. There's almost gaps in the breaks and that's where the rip currents tend to be. There's seaweed at the beach today and it's coming in all over the beach, but it's collecting in one area and moving out again. So, right there, you see a huge area of seaweed that is now moving towards the ocean and it's heading out. And that's a good tell-tale sign that there's a rip current right there. So, if you were a swimmer in that area, you'd be heading out right with that seaweed.