Water Safety Tip | How to Escape a Rip Current

There’s nothing quite like the Irish coast on a sunny day but two incidents within the last week should serve as cautionary tales to why we should always respect the water and know the dangers when it comes to rip currents.

Rip currents

Tullan Strand, Donegal A group of footballers got caught in a rip current last week (Credit Alison Crummy)

Rip currents, also known as riptides or undertows, are long narrow bands of water that can drag you quickly away from shore and out to sea.

Last week a group of footballers got caught in a sting of rip currents and got swept out to sea at Tullan Strand, Donegal. Onlookers raised the alarm and a group of surfers were able to enter the water on boards and bring the footballers to safety.

Another incident happened on Monday at Banna, Kerry when a teenager got caught in a rip current and pulled out to sea. She was fortunately rescued by a Cork man visiting the beach.

Luckily for these people there was someone nearby to rescue them but beach heroes and rescue services might not always be present and they best way to help yourself stay safe is to be aware of the dangers and what to do.

What should I do if I’m caught in a rip current?

  1. Don’t Panic. Try to remain calm. Keeping your wits about in a difficult situation is easier said than done but remaining calm will help you make smart decisions.
  2. Feet on the ground. In the initial stage, when close to the shore try to plant your feet on the ground. This is will help avoid getting dragged out to sea by the receding water.
  3. Call for help immediately. Get the attention of a lifeguard, fellow swimmer or people on shore. Shout, yell and signal. Get someones, anyones attention.
  4. Conserve your energy for swimming and staying afloat. If you’re making no progress reaching the shore you’ll need you energy for planning an alternative escape.
  5. Swim parallel to shore to get out of the current. Rip currents are typically narrow. Rather than swim against the current which will tire you, swim parallel to the shore to escape. The current will carry you further away from shore but you should eventually reach the currents edge and be able to swim back from there.
  6. Once you escape the current, swim diagonally back to shore, away from the rip current area
  7. Don’t panic. So important, we listed it twice. Remember you’re getting pulled away from the shore, not pulled underwater.

When out on the coast this summer be responsible and always respect the water. For more water safety tips visit the Irish Water Safety website.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22