There are many factors to consider when traveling to the beach to enjoy a day in the sun and on the water. Aside from the traditional concerns of packing all the necessary supplies for a day at the beach, such as sunblock for your skin and water to keep hydrated, you must also consider what you need to stay safe while in the water itself.

While on coastal beaches, it’s important to keep an eye out for “rip currents” and to avoid them as much as possible.

Avoidable Deaths

Nearly 50 people die every single year due to rip currents. This is one death that is completely avoidable. There are a number of ways you can tell if the water is safe and what the current conditions of the water are.

First, listen to the weather forecast before you head to the nearest beach. If there are lifeguards on duty that tell you the water is unsafe to enter – listen to them. Many beaches across the country will raise flags to let you know what the conditions are on that particular day.

Yellow flags mean there is a medium level of hazard for moderate surf and rip currents. Red flags mean that the hazard risk is high risk. If you see two red flags – the conditions are far too dangerous to enter the water, even for experienced swimmers. Two red flags not only indicate that the beach is closed, but that there are heavy rip currents and high surf.

A rip current is an especially strong movement of water directly away from a given shoreline. While the traditional “tidal” currents bring waves toward the shore, which are the kinds of waves that surfers can take advantage of, the water that’s brought in needs some way to retreat back into the ocean, and it does this through rip currents.

These currents are dangerous because they can pull inexperienced and experienced swimmers alike far out from shore where they may drown. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, nearly 100 people yearly die because of rip currents.

Spotting a Rip Current

  • Clear looking water between the white surf of waves often means a rip is present in the clear water between the regular waves
  • Rips are often darker in color because of sand other debris in the rip
  • From above, rips can be spotted because they create a surf further back into the water than traditional waves