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  1. #1
    Suzanne C
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    Default How to Avoid, Escape and Assist With Rip Current Rescues

    When swimming at the beach, rip currents are, by far, the most dangerous of hazards. Rip currents are formed when water is channeled from the beach out to the sea. Basically, they are jet-like, seaward directed pulls. These currents can form whenever there are breaking waves and are difficult to determine. Rip currents can even exist under pleasant conditions.

    How to Identify a Rip Current

    Rip currents do have certain characteristics that, despite not being readily or easily identifiable to the average beachgoer, can be identified. Avoiding these surf hazards is key so always look for any of the following signs which may indicate that rip currents are present:

    - a channel of churning or choppy water (like the surface of a hot tub)
    - an area where the water is distinctly different in color (blue to brown)
    - a line of foam, seaweed or other debris leading out to sea(think ‘the trail behind the Love Boat')
    - a break in the wave pattern

    It's worth noting that identifying rip currents, to the untrained eye, is easier said than done however the National Weather Service has advised that polarized sunglasses facilitate identifying certain conditions of rip currents.

    Preventive measures should come foremost so it should go without saying, but avoid swimming when rip current advisories are in effect. Heed those flag warnings even if the conditions are beautiful. Unfortunately, rip currents can exist in the water undetected from the shore. On Sofla/SoBe beaches, it's very common to have distant storms impact currents causing dangerous conditions even with no other signs of inclement weather present. Also, swim only when protected. Swim only on beaches when a lifeguard is present and always verify surf conditions. Remember, sunny skies don't necessarily mean calm currents.

    Always swim accompanied, never alone. Not only will a friend notice your absence immediately, but they can help rescue you or call for assistance. Make sure to keep careful watch of inexperienced swimmers, children and the elderly.

    How to Survive a Rip Current:

    If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, stay calm- it really can be the reason you survive. You may not recognize that you are caught in a rip current until, without warning, you are farther away from the shore than you expected. Here is where most people freak out, start fighting the current, become tired and subsequently drown. Relax. Try to use minimal energy. Rather than swimming against the current, swim perpendicular to it or parallel to the shoreline. Using landmarks to verify you're out of the current, once out, turn and swim towards the shore.

    If you don't think you can make it out of the rip current or find yourself losing strength, don't fight. Remember, you want to avoid exhaustion at all costs. Try to float or tread water lightly until you are out of the current. Here again, once out, swim towards the shore.

    Should you be too tired to swim towards shore, stop and face the beach. Wave your hands and arms and yell loudly to attract attention to yourself.

    Don't Try This at Home Kids.


    - If you happen upon someone in trouble, get lifeguard assistance or call 9-1-1 immediately if a lifeguard is unavailable. Do not attempt to assist the victim. Leave this to the trained professional and stop trying to be David Hasselhoff! Tragically, many people drown while trying to rescue others from a rip current after getting caught themselves. Shout instructions to the victim on how to escape the rip current and wait for assistance to arrive. I know it sounds pathetic, but the goal here is to avoid any other unnecessary additions to a victim log.
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  2. #2
    Gus
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    Great post, Suzy.

    This was the first time I heard that polarized sunglasses make rip currents easier to see.

    I've been caught in a few rip currents myself, the nastiest being in South Beach at 5th Street on a beautiful day when the ocean looked calm, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

    Your tips on how to get out of a rip current are right on the money.

    Don't fight the current. Relax. Let yourself be pulled away from shore. After you feel that you're out of the current swim parallel to the beach and around the tide.

    Also, nobody is too big, too old, or too good of a swimmer to wave your hands above your head and signal a lifeguard for help.

    If you can't get the lifeguard's attention, scream "help me, I'm caught in a rip current" if necessary.

  3. #3
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    Are there signs on South Beach with a simplified version of those instructions?

    I don't remember seeing any. But I have seen illustrated signs with instructions on Panama City Beach in the panhandle of FL.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bradaschenck's Avatar
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    I believe every life guard stand in South Beach has a sign with pictures of how to swim out.

    Everyone should read them.

  5. #5
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    On the boardwalk north of 23rd street there are signs on every beach exit about what do in a rip current. Here is a pix of what you'll see at the lifeguard stand on the 41st street exit.

    Great post, Suzy!
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  6. #6
    Suzanne C
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    Since it is Spring Break and it has been windy, just wanted to bring this back to the forefront.

    Pay attention to the signs folks. Don't try to be badasses guys- you want to make it to graduation not a Suzy Newhouse forum post about a Spring Break drowning.

  7. #7
    Suzanne C
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    Time to bring this thread back to life.

    Please remember that hurricanes churning miles off Florida can cause deadly rip currents on Miami Beach...EVEN IF the day is gorgeous.

    Like G.I. Joe used to say: 'Knowing is half the battle!'

  8. #8
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    And the other half is not swimming out!

  9. #9
    Full Member zippyjet's Avatar
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    Suzy, this is never out of date information nor irrelevant! My buddy Phil whom you met two (2) weeks ago experienced a rip tide in Miami Beach near the Haddon Hall Hotel several years ago. He was starting to get in the freak out stage. He followed your published advice and there you have it. On that Sunday while on the beach in Sarasota (his home base) the Gulf felt more like the Atlantic as there were some serious waves and it looked like there were some rip current potential out in the normally tranquil Gulf of Mexico. And, for whatever reason, maybe I'm hallucinating but it seems rip currents are even more common on skimpy/eroded beach fronts.


    http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/miami.jpg

  10. #10
    Suzanne C
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    I'm SO GLAD the info helped Zippy. Truth be told, I learned at the ripe age of 6 about rip currents. A lifeguard saved me.

    I've never (again) seen my father look as scared as he did that afternoon- ever.

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