Rip Current Awareness Week - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Rip Current Awareness Week

Posted: Updated:
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has marked June 1-7 as Rip Current Awareness Week, to bring attention to water safety as people get ready to kick start summer vacations.

"Anywhere you see breaking waves, there's a danger to see rip currents. They can be really strong or they could be mild," said Sam Wells, a certified lifeguard for the Wichita Falls YMCA.

No matter how big or small, rip currents are dangerous and many times deadly.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of beach rescues are due to rip currents, and more than 100 people die every year from drowning in rip currents.

"You’re not going to beat the rip current. A person can only exert so much energy the water doesn't get tired,” said Wells. “It does what it wants to so it's going to pull you out no matter what. The best thing to do is not fight it."

Wells has an extensive background in water safety and said the number one mistake people make is fighting a battle they will never win.

"You can be pulled several hundred, meters, feet, sometimes miles in some instances before you reach a place where the waves are breaking that's going to be shallow enough to where you can be out of the water or signal for help,” said Wells.

When asked Wells, what exactly are rip currents?

"It's when a body of water is pushed by wind and moving water itself breaking over sand bars, pulling waves in and as the waves hit the water, coming back into the ocean making a pocket, pulling that resulting water into the middle, where the pressure can escape from the shore," said Wells.

He said if you are caught in a rip current the best thing to do is relax and follow this advice.

"Even though it is pulling you out, it doesn't necessarily mean you will drown unless it comes from exhaustion. It’s just going to simply carry you to the ocean. The best thing to do is swim parallel to the waves instead of trying to swim back into the waves,” said Wells.

Wells said two simple tips can be the difference between life and death.

1) If you do not know how to swim, do not go any deeper than your knees or waste in water.

2) If you can swim, make sure you pay close attention to signs and dangers.

Rip currents are not only a danger on the shoreline, but can also be caused by boaters passing by.

Jimmie Johnson, Newschannel 6