With 50-plus rip current rescues in 2019, water rescue chief urges beachgoers to use caution

Published: Jun. 12, 2019 at 6:01 AM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN NC (WECT) - So far this year, about 25 rip current rescues have been reported in Carolina Beach with another 30 in Wrightsville Beach.

No rip current rescues have been reported at Brunswick County beaches in 2019 but Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Tony Young said three lives have been saved this year. Young said there’s a simple explanation for why Brunswick beaches haven’t had issues with rip currents.

“(Carolina and Wrighstville beaches) face east and we face south so the conditions are generally worse for them than they are us,” said Young.

A rip current is formed when a strong wind blows on shore while the tide is going down.

They are relatively easy to spot too. If you see an area where the waves aren’t breaking and there is white foamy water, that is a rip current.

“It’s like an escalator taking you out," Young said. "You can’t swim against it. You’ve got to go with it or down the beach.”

If you are ever in a rip current, Young’s advice is to not panic.

“The best thing you can do is swim down the beach if you’re a strong swimmer or just stay afloat," Young said. "Keep yourself afloat. If you can tread water, just keep your head above water and call for help.”

If you see someone caught in a rip current, try to get them something that floats so they can grab onto it. The current will eventually spit you out.

In some cases, if the rip current is strong enough, it will bring you back to the beach.

Rip currents aren’t the only thing that could pull you out to sea.

Last Monday, Oak Island water rescue saved an 8-year-old boy who floated hundreds of yards out to sea on a large unicorn float.

Young wants families to have fun at the beach, but he said large floats can hinder that experience.

“The rafts are not inherently dangerous but you have to be very vigilant when you’re using one,” said Young. “I don’t like the rafts. I wish they wouldn’t bring them to the ocean. They’re not really made for that but I understand people are going to come here and they want to have fun.”

The boy stayed on the float until Young and his crew came to rescue him. Young said the boy was calm and did everything right by staying on the float.

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