Ocean Safety: Surviving Rip Currents

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    Depending on your home and bugout locations, the ocean may not be something you have thought too much about. It is possible, however, that bugging out could lead to you unexpected places. There are also plenty of us who reside by the sea. Regardless of whether you call places near to the shore home, there are plenty of advantages to having access to it along with many dangers associated with it.

    Photo: Science of the Surf

    Be it the Pacific, Atlantic, or Gulf of Mexico, our oceans are a resource that will provide for us. Though these bodies of water are not drinkable without first desalinating, they are an excellent source of food that can be caught via cast nets or fishing. Even if you do not have access to a boat, there are still plenty of opportunities to live off of the ocean's bounty.

    Though food caught from the ocean can give you much needed sustenance in a survival scenario, it is important that you survive long enough to eat that food, which means avoiding the ocean's hidden dangers. Sure, it is possible to fish from land safely, but sometimes things go awry. For example, you could slip on a jetty or from a pier and fall in while tossing cast net. It is also possible that you may attempt wade fishing to create distance between yourself and other fishermen, thereby giving yourself a fishing advantage. Whatever your fishing practices, it is vital that you know a thing or two about ocean water safety with one of the big concerns being surviving a riptide or rip current. Every year ocean rip currents claim many lives. In large part this is because people who do not know what they are or how they work get caught up in them and panic, then drown as they attempt to fight their way back to shore. Rip currents are not something against which a fight can be won; they are true force to be reckoned with and surviving them entails playing by their rules.

    Photo: Powerful Storms

    The first step in surviving a riptide is ideally to simply avoid them altogether. In our current state of life as we know it, many beaches put out advisories or fly flags warning of danger. Familiarize yourself with this warning system and what different flags indicate as this may vary from one location to another. In the absence of an official warning system, however, you will need to be able to spot rip currents without help. Generally they are most obvious when the pattern of incoming waves is not uniform or waves seem to be crashing into one another rather than rolling onto the shore. You may see an area of increased chop that appears to be churning excessively. In that area there may also be increased foam or seaweed and water may also appear darker.

    Photo: Ceoe.udel.edu

    If you are unable to identify a rip current or lose track of your surroundings and get trapped in one, knowing what actions to take will help you survive. First of all, you need to remain calm and conserve your energy. Remember that a rip current is not a death sentence but it is going to take time and deliberate action to make your way back to shore. When you are first caught in a rip current, you can attempt to swim parallel to the shore, but do not overexert yourself. It may be possible to get out of the current early on by attempting this, but in many cases it will be necessary to calmly tread water inside of the current until it weakens offshore. Although being swept out to sea can be frightening, going with the flow may be the only way out, so mentally prepare yourself to deal with this scenario. Once the rip current releases its grasp on you, swim parallel to the shore until you are away from the rip at which point it is safe to swim to shore. In this process, be sure to avoid swimming into another riptide as it is very possible that several currents will be present in the same area.

    Photo: Dewdropins GA

    Ultimately it is best to only enter the water in areas where a lifeguard is present and can assist you, but that is not always possible now, let alone post TEOTWAWKI. In any event, knowing the dangers with which you might be faced can help ensure your survival, whether you are actively entering the water or find yourself there by accident, such as due to slipping and falling in from shore or from a boat. Wearing a life preserver is another way to stay safe.

    Have you ever been trapped in a rip current? If you wish to share your experience, we'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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