Rips are strong currents that can start near the shore and rush out to sea, quickly taking you out of your comfort zone, from the shallows to deeper water, or at times into rocks.
Some experts, like rescuers or advanced surfers, may use rip currents to get to people in trouble or to get out through the surf zone. However, they have years of training and experience in order to use rips safely. For the vast majority of beach goers, rip currents are a major hazard.
At local beaches, about 80% of all surf rescue calls are related to people getting in trouble with rips. These currents can be faster than an Olympic swimmer and can pull unwary beachgoers quickly out to sea. Knowing how to recognize rips and where they are most commonly found is important so you can avoid them. Ask someone knowledgeable and seek information at local beaches!
AVOIDING A RIP CURRENT
Rip currents are strongest:
- Around rocks, islands and headlands.
- Around submerged sandbars.
Spot a rip by looking for:
- A place where the waves aren’t breaking regularly due to the current.
- A channel of darker, choppy water.
- Foam, seaweed, sand suspended in the water column, or other debris flowing out from the shore through the breakers.
Escaping from a Rip Current
- If caught in a rip current, stay calm – don’t panic.
- If you can stand, wade; don’t swim.
- Never let go of your board or any floatation; it will help you stay afloat and can assist responders in locating you.
- Never try to swim directly against the rip or you’ll get exhausted.
- Swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current, then head for the beach.
- If you can’t escape, remain on your board if surfing, tread water if swimming, raise your hand and shout for help.
- Read and understand all rip current related signage at local beaches; they can help you learn about specific areas where currents re-occur.
If you see someone caught in a rip current, do not enter the water for rescue unless you are trained and wearing a wetsuit. A very important step is to try to maintain a visual on the person stuck in the current, once emergency personnel arrive this information can be relayed to them.
Call 911 and alert others in the area who may be able to help. If you are in Tofino or Ucluelet, quote the emergency locator code in the green box at the top of beach signage.