Water Safety: Part 3 - Spotting Rips


How to spot a rip
(and what to do if you get caught in one)

Summertime = swimming, wether in a pool or at the beach, water safety is super important. Knowing how to swim, learning CPR, keeping an eye on your friends and family as well as being able to spot danger before anything happens is the best way to prevent incidents.

Rips are not obvious to the untrained eye. The telltale signs can be very subtle. Standing down on the beach, you may see what appears to be just a mess of rolling waves, but when you look at the same area of water from above, you can spot a rip more easily.

Experienced surfers and swimmers will often take time to find high ground from which to look down on the surf zone – the area between the shore and the breaking waves furthest out – to suss out the flow of currents.

At the very least, it’s worth pausing and assessing the waves before you jump in.

Here’s what to look out for:

Deeper, darker coloured water

Once waves hit the shore they have to go somewhere. The huge force of the water rushing back out to sea carves channels between shallower areas of sand.

Photo: Shane Daw

Photo: Shane Daw

Fewer breaking waves

The rip areas where water is on its way out – via the deeper channels – won’t have as many incoming breaking waves as the areas where the white-foam-tipped waves are cresting and breaking over sand.

Photo: Rob Brander

Photo: Rob Brander

A rippled surface surrounded by still water

Various currents heading in different directions push against one another, creating a ripple effect.

Photo: Rob Brander

Photo: Rob Brander

Seaweed, sediment and churning, sandy clouds floating towards the back of the waves

This is evidence that sand from the shallows is being dragged out to the deep by currents.

Photo: Shane Daw

Photo: Shane Daw

What to do if you’re caught in a rip

It’s a myth that rips can drag you underwater but they can pull you out, across or around an area of water that you most definitely had not intended to explore. Even those people surveyed by Surf Life Saving Australia were circumspect about their chances of exiting a rip without help – only 12% were very confident they could.

Here’s the advice from lifesavers.

The most important thing is to stay calm and consider your options. Panic leads to fatigue, which leads to drowning.

The second thing is, even if you’re feeling freaked out, don’t swim against the rip.

Swimming against a rip is a race you can’t win. No one can.

Float. This will allow you to conserve energy. The rip may take you back to the shore. It may dissipate. The main thing is you will have energy left to respond to the situation.

While you’re floating, raise your arm and call out to seek help. (If the beach is patrolled, you’ve probably increased your chances of being spotted and you’ve got experts nearby who can help.)

If you’re a confident swimmer, try swimming parallel to the beach towards breaking waves. Breaking waves will be heading into shore. If you try this tactic and the current is too strong, go back to floating.

Lifesavers say that every rip and every situation is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all advice.

“The No. 1 secret is not to get yourself in the position in the first place,”

Rips “can appear and, if you do get into one, it’s knowing there are some options that could get you out of it”.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try another option. You might have to mix it up: floating, swimming, floating. Conserve your energy. Call for help. Stay calm.

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Read Water Safety: Part 1 - Pool Safety

Read Water Safety: Part 2 - CPR

Original article - http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2018/how-to-spot-a-rip