Safety officials on the coast are trying to make beachgoers more aware of rip currents. Those are the narrow channels of waves that can pull swimmers dangerously far offshore. Signs along North Carolina’s coastline advise visitors to ‘Break the Grip of the Rip.’
Spencer Rogers is with the governmental research organization North Carolina Sea Grant. He estimates that rip currents account for 80 percent of drowning and says the currents happen almost every day on North Carolina beaches, but are not always dangerous.
“On a normal day they’re so slow that you probably wouldn’t even notice there’s one there,” Rogers says. “But when they get tuned to just the right conditions between the tide, the waves and the sea conditions, then they could actually become faster than the swimming capacity of an Olympic swimmer.”
If caught in a rip current, swimmers should swim parallel to the shoreline until they escape, rather than directly back to the beach.