Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Know the currents - teach your children to ride the rip

Stalking a Killer That Lurks a Few Feet Offshore - New York Times

Something to teach your children:
Usually rip currents are narrow. But sometimes, according to the National Weather Service, they can be hundreds of yards wide. And although they usually run out of steam just beyond the breakers, they may carry swimmers hundreds of yards offshore.

Rip currents form when wind, wave and beach conditions combine to push up water on the beach so that when it flows back out to sea a large volume is squeezed into a relatively narrow passage at a low place in a sandbar, perhaps, or under a pier. A result is a swath of fast-moving water that cuts across the surf zone, where waves are breaking, carrying sand, seaweed and, sometimes, swimmers with it.

Savvy surfers rely on rip currents for free rides beyond the surf zone. But unwary bathers may wade into the water only to find themselves suddenly swept away. If they keep their heads and swim across the current, parallel to shore, they can escape its grip and make their way back to the beach.
They can carry a swimmer pretty far from shore (beyond the breakers), and they can take some time to swim clear of, but they don't pull swimmers down. A good swimmer can swim across the current and/or ride the current until it dissipates -- then swim in a bit away from the path of the current.

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