How to manage if caught in a rip current

How to manage if caught in a rip current

By Stephanie Velazquez

Rip currents don't only happen when there are waves and many inexperienced swimmers and snorkelers may be unaware of it until they find themselves caught in it. The ocean may appear calm, spectacularly clear, and beautiful, yet have strong rip currents.

A rip current is a relatively strong, narrow current flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone and presenting a hazard to swimmers. The best way to survive a rip current is to remain calm and afloat while going along with the current since it is almost impossible to swim agains it. Yell for help and/or wave your hands so that someone from shore can call for help. You can also swim parallel, or horizontal, to the shore to escape the rip current. This will allow more time for you to be rescued or for you to swim back to shore once the current eases.

Being caught in a rip current doesn't necessarily mean that a person will drown. Rip currents are not the same as "undertow", they do not pull the swimmer vertically down or hold them under. However, inexperienced swimmers may instantly try to swim directly against the currents causing them to exhaust themselves, panic, and in the worst case, end up drowning. 

1.) Be responsible and wear a lifejacket if you are not a good swimmer. 

2.) Verify the weather app for local ocean conditions and rip current advisory.

3.) Go on a Snorkeling Tour. Snorkeling tour guides aren't just there to provide information. They have been trained to be a lifeguard and react during unexpected circumstances. 

4.) Don't want to go on a tour? Understood, but please go in the ocean with a buddy, or have someone watch over you from shore. Let them know how long you plan to be in the water so that they are aware. 

5.) Wear fins. 

Please be responsible since there aren't lifeguards at the beaches in Vieques. If you happen to notice someone in distress in the ocean, quickly call 911.