Rip current safety

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A number of people have drowned in the Pacific Ocean, and experts believe a majority of these deaths happen because people panicked when a rip current pulled them from shore. Nationally, lifeguards rescue approximately 60,000 people from drowning a year, and an estimated 80 percent are caused by rip currents.

Signs of a rip current

  • A break in the incoming wave pattern
  • A channel of churning, choppy water
  • A line of foam or debris moving seaward
  • A difference in water color

If caught in a rip current

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t fight the current
  • Swim in a direction following the shoreline (parallel to the shore)
  • Float or tread water if you’re unable to escape by swimming. When the current weakens, swim at an angle (away from the current) toward shore.
  • If you cannot reach shore, draw attention to yourself. Face the shore, call or wave for help.

Helping someone else

  • Many people have died while trying to rescue others caught in rip currents.
  • Don’t become a victim yourself. If a lifeguard is not present, shout directions on how to escape the current.
  • If possible, throw something that floats to the rip current victim. Call 911.

Further information 

Rip current infographic