August 5, 2013
We want to share with you a little bit about rip currents, also known as a “rip”. A lot of people who visit the Outer Banks don’t know exactly what they are, how they’re formed, and what to do if you find yourself caught in one.
So the first thing I want to do is explain to you what a rip current is. Image a sandbar in the ocean. The ocean current hits these bars on the way to the beach which creates the waves you and I love to surf, boogie board, body surf, and play in so much. With all this water making its way to the beach it needs a way to get back. So what happens is the water comes together as one strong current, plowing through the sandbar and making a path for it to get back. This path, where the water come back through the sandbar is a rip current.
If you find yourself in a rip current you can’t outswim it. Even the best Olympic swimmer could not outswim it. The best thing to do let the current take you out and once you’re past the sandbar you can swim back in.
The problem that usually occurs is a person will find themselves caught in a rip and they will begin to fight and struggle to swim in. By the time they get to the sandbar they have exerted all of their energy and no longer have the strength to make it back in.
Remember, the smart thing to do is to let the current take you out, don’t fight the current. You are full of air and very buoyant. The current won’t pull you under. And once you’re past the sandbar, swim a little north or south to begin making you way back in.
Also, always swim near a lifeguard when visiting the Outer Banks. This way if you do find yourself caught and being pulled out you can inform the lifeguard that you need help while you’re floating out.
Here is a list of the public beach accesses on the Outer Banks, including those with lifeguards.