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Overhead view of riptide at the beach

You’re enjoying a day at the beach, swimming just off the shore, when you realize you’re not moving. You breaststroke, sidestroke, and try to doggie paddle your way back to land, but no matter how hard you try, you don’t move an inch. You’re caught in a rip current (also called a riptide) and you need to remain calm and move deliberately to escape safely.

What Is a Rip Current?

A rip current occurs when waves push over a sandbar and raise the water level at the shore. The water is then sucked back, usually between a gap in the sand barriers. This creates a strong and narrow current where anything caught in the flow of water (including people) will be pushed back, beyond the sandbar. While this phenomenon often happens at an ocean beach, rip currents can also occur at large lakes.

The problem is that most swimmers aren’t aware of rip currents or what to do if they’re caught in one. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 4-in-5 beach lifeguard rescues are a response to someone caught in a rip current.

How to Escape

If you're swimming and realize you’re not moving, you may be in a rip current. It’s crucial that you remain calm and recognize the signs as early as possible. If you get frustrated or panic, you’re more likely to exhaust yourself or begin drowning. The first thing you should do is call out to a lifeguard if there is one present. If not, you need to know how to get yourself out of this situation.

Remember that rip currents are narrow The force of moving water is too powerful to swim directly into, but you can escape the current by moving to your left or right. Instead of pushing against the force of the water, you’ll move with it and it can push you out of the swell.

If the current is particularly strong and swimming sideways doesn’t seem to work, you may want to submerge and move sideways. Rip currents are brought on by surface-level winds, so the flow is less pronounced beneath the surface. By going underwater for a moment, even weak swimmers have a better chance of escaping a rip current.

If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries while swimming, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney from Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC, please don’t hesitate to call (888) 425-6070 or send us an email.