2040 Long Range Transportation Plan Final Report
Rip currents are the greatest danger to beach patrons and account for more than 80 percent of water rescues performed by surf rescue lifeguards. Rip currents cause more deaths each year than shark attacks do each decade. The best defense against drowning is knowing how to swim. Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds and dangerous currents. The conditions in the Gulf of Mexico can change very quickly, and you should be a strong swimmer before entering the water.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water that are caused by breaks in the sandbar just offshore. Currents flowing away from the coast move fastest where the sandbar is reduced or not present and the water is deeper. Always swim near a lifeguard and ask them where it is safest to swim. If lifeguards are not present, attempt to stay on the sandbars and avoid the area between sandbars where the water color is typically darker. Avoid swimming near piers and jetties where permanent rip currents are present.
If you become caught in a rip current, escape by swimming sideways to the direction the current is pulling you, or parallel to shore. If you cannot swim out of the rip or the current is too strong, go with the flow offshore and the rip current will weaken. Then, swim back to shore at an angle away from the rip current.
To learn more about rip currents, visit the National Weather Service's Rip Current Safety Website.
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