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Beach Safety and Avoiding Rip Currents: Advice from NOAA

The following is part of a summer blog series with a focus on summer safety tips from NOAA written by Marissa Pekular, (Intern) 

From the tropical beaches of Maui, the sunny shores of Malibu, the fragile islands of the Outer Banks, beaches across the United States are savored retreats for millions of people. Tourists are drawn to beaches for their serene charm, diverse wildlife, and unique beauty.

However, rip currents may pose a dangerous and unexpected threat to beachgoers. According to the National Ocean Service, rip currents are narrow channels of powerful, fast-moving water. They are prevalent along the East, West, and Gulf coasts of the U.S. and are even common along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues, with lifeguards rescuing tens of thousands of people each year. About 100 people die each year while struggling against rip currents. The experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offer safety guidelines and advice on how to avoid rip current encounters.

  • Prepare by checking local forecasts and conditions before going to the beach.
  • Swim near lifeguards and ask them about safety concerns and conditions.
  • Keep an eye out for warning flags on the beach.
  • Assess your swimming ability before venturing too deeply in the water. In other words, know your limits.

If you do find yourself being pulled out by a rip current, it is important to say calm. The current will not pull you under the water, but it will push you out further into the ocean. The experts from NOAA advise the following.

  • Stay calm and assess your conditions.
  • Do not fight against the current by trying to swim back toward the shore. You will quickly become exhausted.
  • Instead, float and swim parallel to the shore, and eventually, you will escape the current.
  • If you are unable to swim parallel to the shore, wave and call for lifeguard support.

While beaches are places for relaxation and vacation, they may pose life-threatening dangers. The best strategies to avoid rip currents are to swim at lifeguard-protected beaches, be aware of rip current conditions, do not enter unsafe waters, and know how to escape a rip current should you find yourself caught in one.

Make sure your next trip to the beach is a safe one with these rip current resources from NOAA:

Rip current safety: https://www.weather.gov/safety/ripcurrent



Beach Safety: https://www.weather.gov/safety/beach