Responsible for most rescues performed by lifeguards, rip currents can form in any large open water area (including the Great Lakes), such as low spots and breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as jetties and piers.
How to Avoid Rip Currents
- Check conditions before entering the water: are any warning flags up? Ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, and potential hazards.
- While in the water, stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
How to Escape from a Rip Current
- If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight it.
- Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Then, turn and swim to shore.
- Alternately, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head to shore.
- If you can’t make it to shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
If Someone Else Is Caught in a Rip Current
- If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard.
- If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
- Throw the victim something that floats – such as a lifejacket, cooler or inflatable ball – and yell instructions on how to escape the current. Do not attempt a rescue yourself unless you are a trained beach lifeguard.