Nervous about rip currents? Ask your lifeguard

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Summer officially starts June 21 and with more people flocking to the beach, it’s important to know what to do if you’re caught in a rip current.

One step to take happens before even getting into the water, by checking the beach warning flags and asking the lifeguard about the ocean conditions before getting in.

“We would love for you to come up to the lifeguard and ask how the ocean is,” said Lane Cox, the Beach Services Supervisor of Surfside Beach and Garden City. “You can never fully be aware of the situation until you ask the lifeguard himself. The flags are a great indicator of what is going on, but to get exact details it’s always best to check with the lifeguard before going swimming.”

A rip current is a narrow, fast-moving channel of water that starts near the shore and extends out to the sea.

Rip currents can happen at any beach

As in any time you’re dealing with the ocean.

“It is very very dangerous,” said Cox. “We still have rip current issues pretty much weekly.”

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, there are over 100 deaths each year in the U.S. due to rip currents and they account for over 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards.

“We’re just really, really, really trying to encourage people to look out and sport the rip currents themselves which you can see by the long steaks of foam going out in the ocean,” said Cox. So it’s really easy to spot, by just looking at the big streaks of foam on the ocean. That’s probably an area you wouldn’t want to swim.”

A lifeguard can also show beach-goers where rip currents are and teach beach-goers how to spot them.

If caught in a rip current:

  • Remain calm.
  • Never fight against the current.
  • Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current towards the shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving both your arm and yelling for help.

“Our main problems are a lot of times with heat exhaustion and medical issues and stuff like that,” said Cox. “So our biggest advisory, especially for people who are a little bit older, a little bit younger or not in great health is to always drink plenty of water, make sure you eat a healthy breakfast before you come out to the beach, and don’t stay too long.”

The ocean can be dangerous, but people should also be careful even if they don’t plan on getting in the water.

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