The recent deaths of three people in a surfing tragedy off the coast of Cornwall has thrown into sharp focus the dangers posed by the sea. The adults that died were among seven people, including four teenagers, who are thought to have been caught in a rip tide while enjoying the surf. But what is a rip tide and how can you avoid the dangers?
Rip tides explained
Rip tides, more accurately called rip currents, are dangerously unpredictable, sometimes reoccurring in the same spot at certain tide times and other times appearing without warning – and disappearing just as suddenly. Signs of a rip tide include discoloured water, floating debris and choppy, foamy water.
Getting caught in a rip tide can be extremely dangerous for those without the necessary knowledge to deal with them. Many people exhaust themselves in a bid to swim against the water’s flow.
How to deal with a rip
Be aware of the conditions and tide times at the beach you choose to swim or surf at and always try to keep your feet on the bottom as much as possible, especially if you are not extremely knowledgeable about the sea. This will prevent you being swept away by a current.
If you do get caught, stay calm. You are not likely to be pulled underwater, just away from shore, and this is only likely to be a maximum of 100 yards before the current loses its strength. Try to attract attention by calling for help and, if you can, swim out of the current by travelling parallel to the shore.
If help is not at hand or you cannot swim out of the current, focus purely on staying afloat. Tread water or float on your back to conserve energy. The tide should subside between 50 and 100 yards away from the shore and then you can swim back to the shore diagonally away from the rip.