Surviving a Riptide – Pass It On


After the tragic event off the coast of Cornwall last weekend when three people lost their lives after being dragged out to sea by a riptide, I started searching for information on how to identify and avoid rips.

Rule 1, never underestimate the sea. I got stuck in a rip in St. Ouen’s Bay, Jersey the first year I ever came to the Island. Fortunately for me and the three friends I was swimming with, we were rescued by the Australian Life Guards who were patrolling the beach at the time; along with 17 other people that particular afternoon. I will be forever indebted to them. So Rule 2 has to be, do not swim in areas where there are no life guards.

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So what are rip tides? Rip currents, also known as undertows. They are long, narrow bands of water that can pull any objects caught in them away from shore and out to sea. How do we identify them? Well, here is some info provided by The Weather Channel:

  • a channel of churning, choppy water
  • an area having a notable difference in water colour
  • a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
  • a break in the incoming wave pattern

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Tip: Polarized sunglasses make it easier to see the rip current clues provided above.

Although they very frightening at the time, you need to keep your feet on the ground if possible, but if you find yourself being pulled out to sea, don’t panic. You are caught in a rip current that you can swim out of. To get out of the rip swim parallel to shore. That is, swim so that the shore is either to your right or your left. Never swim against the current, which is exactly what I tried to do.

We all love spending time on the beach, but if you do go in the sea, be vigilant, stay safe.

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