Ocean Safety on LBI: What’s A Rip Current?

What’s A Rip Current?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describes rip currents as “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water.” Rip currents can be dangerous for all levels of swimmers – experienced or not. The NOAA also notes that “panicked swimmers often [incorrectly] try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore;” this can put swimmers in a fatigued state, making it harder for them to keep swimming. Many experienced lifeguards, surfers, and swimmers can spot a rip current from the shore – these areas look different than the rest of the water (can be darker, churning, sometimes choppy, etc.). The photo below (provided by the United States Lifesaving Association) shows what a rip current can look like, when viewed from the beach. Some beach patrols will mark rip current areas with a flag or sign, or exclude them from a swimming area on purpose, which is why it is important to swim near a lifeguard, inside of the approved areas.

Rip Currents - United States Lifesaving Association

hat Should I Know Before Swimming?

  1. Each guarded beach has a lifeguard and a designated area for swimming. If the area you want to swim in does not have those two things, you should not swim there.
  2. Be smart. Does the ocean look more intense than you are comfortable with? If so, try a calmer day.
  3. If you get caught in a rip current – don’t panic and don’t fight the current! Signal to a lifeguard (if able) and swim parallel to the shore. Then, swim back towards the land. See the photo below for a visual aid.

Where Can I Find More Information?

We recommend the following local sources for beach information:

And the following national sources for information:

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