WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Rip currents are the reason for 80 percent of surf-related rescues.
To show you the power of a rip current, Coast Guard and Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue teams simulated a rip current rescue by letting volunteers swim into a strong longshore current, which is generated by the wind and resembles a rip current moving sideways.
A rip current is a fast moving body of water that has been trapped on one side of a sandbar that is moving out to sea from a break in the sandbar area, creating a funnel of water that pulls swimmers out.
If someone is caught in a rip current, the first thing they should do is try to remain calm. Use your energy to stay afloat.
Rip currents are typically about 30 feet wide so swimming parallel to the shore and then use the incoming waves should get you out of the current and back to shore.
Risk for rip currents comes down to the incoming wave energy so if there are days of local winds pushing water into the shoreline, then there is usually a larger number of rip currents.
If you have water pushing in toward the beach, the natural way to get it back out is through a rip current.
We can have beautiful weather at our beach but because of a storm far offshore, water conditions can be rough and deceiving. Just because you’ve got great weather does not equal excellent beach conditions.
There are also visual clues you can look for when trying to spot a rip current. It’s easy to see these clues when you’re at a higher vantage point such as walking over to the beach on the access path or from a pier.
Rip currents typically look darker than the surrounding water because they reside in deeper water.
You also might see areas where waves don’t break, but water is actually deeper there.
Sand and turbulent looking water flowing away from the beach are other visual clues. It can even look like chocolate milk from the sand being carried away.