Rip currents cause an average of 46 deaths annually in the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. A fun day at the beach can turn into a life-threatening situation for those that are not prepared and do not have proper knowledge about rip currents.
When ocean waves travel onto shore, each wave breaks differently with some waves being stronger or weaker than others. As this continues, water can be seen moving away from the shoreline traveling in a narrow belt of water. This is what is known as a rip current.
A rip current will extend from the shoreline past the surf zone and the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can form at any beach and can move one to two feet per second on average, sometimes reaching up to eight feet per second, according to the United States Lifesaving Association.
Rip currents move at such a fast speed that any swimmer can suddenly be swept into one, no matter how strong or weak of a swimmer you are. Ways to identify a rip current include a difference in watercolor, visibly seeing debris move off shore and noticing a different break for the next incoming wave.
If you are ever caught in a rip current, do not fight the current. Rip currents are powerful and can waste a lot of energy when trying to fight against it. Swim towards the shoreline at an angle away from the current. For those that cannot swim, float on the water or calmly tread water to not waste energy.
Easy ways to prevent yourself and others being caught in a rip current is to swim at a lifeguarded beach, be aware of the surf zone hazards and never swim alone.
In light of the recent loss of Lance Cpl. Justin A. Hinds on May 4, 2019 off Emerald Isle, every patron is encouraged to be safe at the beach and to make sure that others are safe as well. Every Marine and community member is essential to our mission so that we can always stay on the job as U.S. Marines.