Do you know how to swim safely on our Alabama beaches? Following the beach flag warning system is one way. But knowing how to escape a rip current can also be lifesaving.
Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, and most often form at low spots or breaks in sandbars. They can also form near piers and jetties. You may not be able to see a rip current, but there are signs of one, such as a break in the pattern of incoming waves, a channel of churning, choppy water, an area with a different water color, or a line of foam or seaweed moving steadily away from shore.
As benign as these signs appear, rip currents can pull the strongest swimmer away from the beach and account for at least 100 deaths each year on U.S. beaches.
Swimmers caught in a current sometimes panic and try to swim directly back to shore. That only exhausts the swimmer. Instead, get out of a current by swimming parallel to the shore until you are free from the current, then swim back in. If you can’t swim to escape the current, float with it or tread water until the current stops, then swim back to shore. Wave your arms and call for help if you can’t reach the beach.
No matter what the water conditions, remember these four tips:
- Learn to swim.
- Never swim alone.
- Swim near a lifeguard station.
- If in doubt, don’t go out.
Enjoy the water, but please be respectful of it.