Siebert Realty Office
6 Oct

Rip Currents

There’s nothing more relaxing than a day at the beach, and we want to help keep it that way! Becoming more knowledgeable about beach hazards (like rip currents) and how to be prepared will keep your beach days safe and peaceful.

Rip currents are channelized currents of water which flow away from shore. Typically, rip currents can be found near common beach structures like jetties or fishing piers but can also be found along breaks in sandbars. Any beach with surf has the potential for rip currents to form.

According to the National Weather Service, the average speeds of rip currents are 1-2 feet per second, but they have been measured as fast as 8 feet per second—faster than an Olympic swimmer!

You may be able to see the locations of rip currents from shore. If you notice an area of calmer (sometimes darker) water between break areas of white water, it is a good indication a rip current is present. You might also notice an area of sea foam or other debris moving away from shore in a line. Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 yards wide. When a potential rip current is identified, the area should be avoided.

If you find yourself in a rip current, the most important thing you need to remember is to remain calm and not panic! By remaining calm, you conserve energy and maintain the ability to assess the situation clearly. Remember that a rip current is a channel of water which pulls you away from the shore, so the best way to get out of that channel is to swim parallel to shore.

If you cannot swim parallel to shore, or feel yourself getting tired, conserve your energy. Do NOT try to swim directly against the rip current—the force of the water is extremely strong and will only tire you out more quickly. Wave and yell for help, try to relax as best as you can, and tread water.

If you see someone in a rip current and in need of help, try to get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, try to direct the person in the rip current to swim parallel by using arm motions. You can also throw them a flotation device or an inflatable beach toy to help them conserve their energy.

The best way to protect yourself from a potentially dangerous situation with a rip current is to always be prepared. Before you head to the beach, check out the latest weather service forecast for local beach conditions. Never swim alone, and if you’re in doubt about the surf conditions, don’t go out!

Visit this government site for more helpful tips on rip current safety!  The NWS’ Virginia Surf Forecast can be found here.

Photos taken from the National Weather Service/NOAA.

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