We all love a little fun in the sun while on vacation at The Breakers. But just because we’re having fun, doesn’t mean there isn’t danger hiding in the waters. Thats right, I’m talking about rip currents. *dun dun dun*
Just kidding, they’re not scary if you know how to handle them. Rip currents are something we in Florida have all heard about, especially living in a beach town. But for those who didn’t grow up in the sunshine state, you might be thinking to yourself, “What in the world is a rip current?”
Rip currents are narrow sections of fast-moving water that occurs along the coast. These powerful currents can gain speed of up to 8 feet per second. Which is faster than the average Olympic swimmer.
But what happens if you get stuck in this powerful current?
Stay calm!!! Often times swimmers unknowingly put themselves at risk of drowning by panicking and trying to fight the current. Rip currents can sweep even the strongest of swimmers away, so it’s important to call for help and calmly float until you’re able to break free. The safest way to get out of a rip current is by swimming parallel to the shore until you break free from the current and can swim at an angle back to land.
On average, there are tens of thousands of people each year that get caught in rip currents which require a lifeguard rescue in the U.S., and it is estimated that around 100 people annually drown by rip currents because they didn’t know what to do.
The term rip current is often confused and mistaken for the terms rip tides and undertows. Now I’m sure you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s the difference?”
The term rip tide describes a specific type of tide that moves through inlets and the mouths of estuaries and harbors. While both are swiftly moving water, due to the different locations and causes of these phenomenons, they are classified differently.
Which brings us to undertows, yet another term describing the movement of water. (Seriously though, how many different ways can water move?) An undertow refers to the “backwash” of waves as they move along the ocean floor back out to sea. Simply put: an undertow is what you call when the water recedes back to the ocean after the waves break on shore. This water is strong enough to cause small children to lose their balance and get swept away, but the next incoming wave will push them back onshore.
An undertow is often mistaken for a rip current, because it is believed that the movement pulls you under. Neither an undertow nor rip current will pull you under, but those who fight the current are at risk for becoming tired and drowning.
Although this might seem like scary stuff, with the right education and awareness we can safely enjoy our day at the beach!