Rip Current Safety on the Outer Banks.
Splash Out! Outer Banks Swim Safety..
Playing in the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks shoreline is one of the best perks of our area! Crystal blue waves lap the sands and almost washes away all the cares, troubles and hassles you had before you plunked down in the sand. However, most underestimate the power of the ocean and, in the upcoming months, there will be many different water conditions that could be dangerous. The biggest danger of them all is the rip current. They are hard to spot if your unfamiliar and the cause of many ocean rescues once they grasp the unsuspecting swimmer.
If you should get caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Try to remember a few simple rules:
- Keep calm and do not panic. Once you feel yourself getting pulled away from shore, while you are still able, wave your hands and signal for help.
- Don’t fight the rip current by trying to swim against it! Even the strongest of swimmers tire quickly once they begin to swim against the flow of the current.
- To get out of the rip current, pick a direction and begin to swim parallel to the beach. This will get you out of the pull of the rip current so you can swim back in, allowing the waves the waves to help push you along until you are able to stand. (Chances are, if the waves are breaking, you should be able to stand up.)
- Once you feel you are out of the pull of the rip current, swim at a 45 degree angle away from the rip current and towards shore. The power of a rip current will eventually subside, allowing you to gather your bearings and begin to escape. By swimming at an angle, you are moving away from the rip and into the breaker area of the waves, allowing them to grab you and push you towards shore.
- If you can’t escape this way, or find the current two swift to swim sideways on, try to float or calmly tread water until you feel the drift subside. Rip current strength eventually weakens offshore, allowing you the ability to attempt the strategy above.
- It is always advised, if at any time you are unable to reach the shore (be it behind knocked down by waves, pulled to sea by a rip current or become cramped), draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
Along the Outer Banks, there are both Lifeguarded areas and Unguarded areas open for swimming. Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills & Nags Head are all guarded beaches with lifeguards on duty. Towns like Southern Shores, Duck & Corolla are all roaming lifeguards who zip along the shoreline on ATV’s, patrolling the surf area for swimmers in distress. Cape Hatteras Seashore is a federally protected area that is unguarded beach, patrolled by Park Rangers and roaming lifeguards in 4x4 trucks. Most vacationers prefer the security and safety of swimming in a lifeguard protected area and stick to “closer to home” when it comes to frolicking in the ocean for a few hours with the family. However, if you wish to go swimming in the unguarded areas, here’s a few tips on how to avoid the clutches of a rip current.
- Never swim alone! Always use the buddy system when it comes to swimming in the ocean so that you can keep an eye out for each other. It is way more fun too!
- Bring some type of floatation device with you; a raft, boogie board, soft top surfboard, pool noodle or even blow-up pool float works in the ocean. They are fun to play with in the waves and if you happen to get caught in a rip current, they will help you stay afloat until you are able to get away or get help.
- Never underestimate the power of the ocean and turn your back to the waves! The best way of getting knocked off your feet is by turning your back to a wave and allowing it’s power to buckle your knees. Always face the ocean when approaching the breaker zone and never turn away to avoid a wave (dive under it or jump up!) Falling down is tough to get up when wave after wave keep coming.
- Learn to recognize what a rip current looks like and its conditions so that you can avoid it. Rip currents are easy to spot as they are the smooth areas between the breaking waves. You should be able to see the water moving at an accelerated rate and steer clear of that area when picking a spot to swim in. The quicker you can spot them, the safer everyone with you is!
Want to live on the outer banks?
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See you on the Outer Banks!