Rip Currents: When You See the Red Flags, Respect the Red Flags

Rip Currents: When You See the Red Flags, Respect the Red Flags
By: Steven Neville Last Updated: August 11, 2016

It was a sunny day in North Carolina when my sister and I went into the water. The sky was pristine; the waves, calm and collected, gently crashed into the sand bar near where my sister and I were, and the wind was just a whisper.

On this calm, perfect day in North Carolina a rip tide grabbed my sister.

I was fortunate enough to be near enough to her and a strong enough swimmer to grab her and swim to shore, but I did everything absolutely wrong in those brief moments and feel absolutely lucky to be where I am today.

Moral to this story is there are no red flags to rip tides besides the red (or yellow) flags you see flying high above the beaches and when you see a flag or are warned there are conditions for rip currents, don’t go in the water.

Learn the flag system

Rip tides, the result of waves breaking that form narrow currents that pull you away from the shore, are like getting kidnapped by a brick wall. The sudden lack of control and pull away from the safety and security of the shore induce panic, and the natural instinct is to fight back and swim towards the safety of the shore.

But fighting back against the current is exactly what NOT to do; the brick wall doesn’t break and the current doesn’t get weaker...only you do.

Instead, if you do get caught in a rip current, here’s what you need to know and what the experts want you to do.

There’s nothing better you can do than avoid a rip current if you can. Far too many people have lost their lives this year by jumping in the water when they should not have. My sister and I made the same mistake: we didn’t look, listen and watch.

Look for the flags, listen to lifeguards and weather services, never go into the water alone and watch out for others in the water.

Remember, we are all in this together. Be smart and be safe.