Surviving Laguna Beach Rip Currents

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By Carisa Carlton

Surfing, snorkeling, or just playing in the water, the ocean is a place for forming lifelong memories. Most people leave the beach satisfied with their refreshing experiences, yet thousands of visitors get caught in terrifying rip currents each year.  With much appreciation, Laguna Beach has a well establish fund for providing life guards to protect swimmers from accidents, but they provide no educational material to help visitors identify deadly rip currents before a frightening encounter with the water’s power. Identifying rip currents before going into the water may save your life.

rip current rip tide laguna beachA rip current, also called a rip tide, is a channel of water flowing toward the sea and away from the beach. Rip currents can occur anywhere breaking water flows. In other words, every beach is subject to rip currents.  Even if a beach is reputed as a safe beach for children, rip currents are always possible.

Wikipedia explains rip currents:

“When wind and waves push water toward the shore, that water is often forced sideways by the oncoming waves. This water streams along the shoreline until it finds an exit back to the sea or open lake water. The resulting rip current is usually narrow and located in a trench between sandbars, under piers or along jetties. A common misconception is that ordinary undertow or even rip currents are strong enough to pull someone under the surface of the water; in reality the current is strongest at the surface. This strong surface flow tends to dampen incoming waves, leading to the illusion of a particularly calm part of the sea, which may possibly lure some swimmers into the area. The off-shore path taken by a rip current can be demonstrated by placing colored dye at the start of a current at the shoreline.”

You will know if you are caught in a rip current if the water is pulling you quickly away from the shore.

If you get caught in a rip current:

  • Relax.  Try to float on your back until you calm yourself.  
  • Do not try to swim against the current to reach the shore.  Currents travel up to 8 feet per second.  The strongest swimmer cannot swim faster than a rip current.
  • Swim parallel to the beach to get out of the rip current.  Rip currents are generally not very wide.
  • Once you are out of the rip current, you can swim back to the shore.

If you cannot get out of a rip current, signal for help immediately.  The best way to avoid rip currents is to watch the water for rip currents.  Avoid areas of the beach where you see water being pulled outward faster than the surrounding water. Watch the video below from the experts at Expert Village in San Diego to learn more about rip currents and how they occur.



While the Laguna Beach waters are luring, please do not swim alone.

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Author: Carisa Carlton

Carisa Carlton is the Editor in Chief of Laguna Beach Gazette. Learn more about Carlton at .

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