Rip Currents in the Beaufort Area
Rip currents are basically currents, usually at the beach, that carry large amounts of water outward toward the sea. They do not "suck" you under and will not carry a person to England. They usually stop just beyond the breakers. They are not tides, so when you hear the term rip tides, that is not correct, they are currents. Sadly, they are responsible for many beach related drownings, as novice swimmers usually panic and try to swim back towards the beach, against the current. You will rarely win that way, as these currents can be very strong, about 3 to 6 feet per second.
How Rip Currents are Formed
Rip currents form in a shallow channel formed on the beach. At low tide, channels cut in the sand running out towards the sea are indications of a rip current spot when the tide comes back in. Strong currents may be a slightly different color than surrounding water and often can be seen as a disturbance or break in the surf line. They may also form between submerged sand bars, jetties and groins. The worst spots are usually formed during severe storms.
If Caught in a Rip Current
If you are caught in a rip current, always swim parallel to the beach or river bank. Never swim against the current. Think of of it as a treadmill that can not be turned off. To get off, simply step off to the side! By swimming parallel to the beach, you will eventually break free and then can swim back in. If you tire and are a good swimmer, just let the current take you to where it ends, then swim at an angle away from where you came. Remember, never swim against the current, as it will quickly drain your energy.
Other Types of Currents
Tides and surges cause strong river currents that flow parallel to the shore. If caught in these currents, always swim at an angle midway with the current flow and towards the shore or bank. Never swim against the current.