Do you know how to get out of a rip current?

The news last night brought more reports of beachgoers having to be rescued from rip currents. Seems like at least once a week I see reports of this on the news, and on those rare occasions when I happen to visit a beach, I see prominent signs explaining to swimmers what they must do to escape a rip current that’s dragging them away from the shore faster than they can swim.

Without looking up the answer right now, do you know what to do to escape from a rip current?

Yes. Swim parallel to the shore until I’m no longer in the current, then head for shore.

Yes I do.

Swim sideways, parallel to shore until you escape the current. Then head in.

I’m pretty sure, yes.

Swim parallel to the shore for a minute or so, then you should be clear of the current.

Need answer fast?

Yes, I know - just what was posted above. I was caught in one once off the North Carolina coast while swimming with my two young sons. A scary few minutes, and I was getting pretty tired towing them by the end, but we got out of it.


But then, I don’t swim in the ocean. “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Now I have the theoretical knowledge, at least.

Yes. One of the basics I taught when instructing paddlers.

Are you trying to cross the streets in Houston?

Swim across the prevailing current. Swimming against the current just makes you tired.

There’s two that I know of, though I’m not much of a swimmer, so I hope never to exercise the knowledge:

Swim perpendicular to the current/parallel to the beach.

Or float it out and then swim diagonally back to shore once you’re out of the rip.

I do know, but it is academic knowledge only. I can only hope I would remember if I ever found myself in one. I have no experience in swimming in the ocean.

Yep. I’ve lived almost my entire life within a short drive of the ocean. My local news talks about how to get out of a rip current whenever there are warnings posted. Like…today.

Also, if I’m in the ocean these days, there’s a really good chance I have fins and a tank of air with me. Makes it a little less scary.

Yes (answers given above) though heaven knows if I’d remember it while being hauled off to Neptune’s domain.

Plan B is to be rescued by a dolphin. That happens in real life, right?

The answer is NOT just swim parallel to the shore.

It is to remain calm and realize what is happening. Just a assertive movement can use up much energy. Just genitally try to go sideways but also do not exhaust yourself in that effort. It will give up way out there and will bring you back.

I am not at all sure what to make of this. Part of me wants to know how to do this (purely hypothetically, of course). Part of me wants to see it demonstrated. (I’d pay. Big.) Part of me is happy just living in a world where it is possible.

And of course part of me LERVS predictive text screw-ups.

I’m going to be chuckling for ages now.

Not go in the ocean.

Yes, but would I remember what to do and not panic if it happened to me? I hope so.

I’ve seen rip current signs on Lake Michigan, so it isn’t just the ocean


The casual follow-up question: how many of you are certain that your kids know how to escape a rip current?

Both of my kids are certified lifeguards. Pretty sure they know.

Yes, I do. But I could see how even those with that knowledge might find themselves in a dangerous situation if caught in a rip because even when you know better there’s the possibility you will panic and do what comes instinctively, which is to try to head to shore regardless. So calm yourself, then move parallel until you’re out of the rip and can make your way back in.

My kid… I’ve taught her but we’ll have a refresher every time we go on a beach vacation.

Yup. Not panic. Not follow the advice above. See where the current takes me. Then decide from there. Swimming back into the current is a no-go, obviously. I’m a strong swimmer (but not against a current), not prone to panic, and a good floater. I wouldn’t worry. Might I die? Maybe, but at least I wouldn’t panic before it happened.