Rip currents are a fact of life where soft sand beaches extend well out into the surf … as the Flying Catnap’s private beach does.
One of the reasons that these phenomena are so dangerous is that they are also random. The ocean’s constant motion means that the sand beneath the water is also moving. As the sand moves, the shape of the ocean’s bottom changes and a small valley between to slightly higher hills can form. When this happens, it changes the flow of the water as the surf rises onto the beach and then retreats.
The water converges into the valley as it returns to the ocean and makes a strong current moving out to sea in doing so. The current is narrow, only about as wide as the valley, but it can be very strong indeed. Not even the most powerful swimmer is likely to make any progress toward the beach when swimming against a rip current.
Just because “there was no rip current here yesterday” it is not safe to believe that there is no rip current here today. The ocean is alive and constantly changing.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, the solution is simple if a bit frightening. Do NOT swim toward the beach. Instead, swim along, or parallel to, the beach to escape the “out to sea” water flow.
Always observe other safe swimming practices as well –
- Don’t swim alone! There is no lifeguard at the Catnap’s private beach.
- Stay close enough to shore to be sure of being able to reach it.
- Swim within your capabilities and your strength. Exhaustion is your enemy.
- Respect the surf when the wind is up and the waves are large.
- Stay clear of surf fisherman’s lines. Their hooks are unpleasant and their bait attracts predators.