Rip Currents, Know Your Limitations

The dangers of rip currents were brought into stark reality recently when an off-duty surf lifesaver together with a member of the public rescued three women caught in a rip off Cabarita Beach on the NSW Far North Coast.

Rip currents are one of the more common issues at beaches that result in swimmers in particular getting into difficulty.

A key part of Surf Life Savings’ many education programs including the popular Beach to Bush which is targeted at rural primary aged students focus on helping students identify these potentially dangerous currents.

Educating the public about rip currents has become such a priority that a new national rip awareness campaign will be launched by Surf Life Saving Australia in late October.

The purpose of this advertising blitz across all mediums is to draw attention to some of the misconceptions around rip currents.

Below are some simple tips that can help your guests identify rip currents as well as the best course of action if they do get into difficulty.

How can I spot a Rip Current?

• Rip currents will occur in deeper water, so it’s usually a darker colour compared to the white breaking waves over a sandbank
• Because the water is deeper, there will be less breaking waves or maybe an area with no waves at all, which can give the appearance of a safer spot to swim
• Rip currents can move things like sand, seaweed, or debris back out through the waves

What do I do if I get caught in a Rip Current?

If you get caught in a rip current, you need to know your options:

• Relax – stay calm and float to conserve your energy
• Raise – raise an arm and attract attention from the lifeguards or lifesavers
• Rescue – the lifeguards or lifesavers will be on their way to help you
• While floating, rip currents may flow in a circular pattern and return you to an adjacent sandbar
• You may escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach, towards the breaking waves
• You should regularly assess your situation. If your response is ineffective, you may need to adopt an alternative such as staying calm, floating and raising an arm to attract attention

One of the challenges that could confront your guests is that some beaches have rip currents that exist year round, while others can develop in a matter of seconds which can potentially catch out even the most experienced beach goer.

NSW Lifesaving Manager Andy Kent said it is important for everyone to know how to react if they do find themselves caught in a rip current.

“As your guests might only holiday at a particular beach a few times a year we strongly urge them to swim at a patrolled location and familiarise themselves with local conditions,” Mr Kent said.

“The BeachSafe Website also available to download as an app is a good starting point for information as it contains links to weather updates, provides an overview of the facilities and challenges of a particular beach, as well as information about patrol times.” he concluded.

Thu 22 Sep 2016