Experts: Even strong swimmers can get caught in rip currents
Water safety experts are reminding people that even strong swimmers can get caught in rip currents in the wake of a high number of fatal drownings in the southern U.S.
They say the currents can catch swimmers by surprise.
"They don't pull you under the water. That's kind of a common misconception," says Gregory Dusek, senior scientist with NOAA's National Ocean Service. "People think they suck you under the water but they don't. They just kind of pull you away from shore."
Duesk says people should not panic if they are caught in a current.
"I know that sounds counter-intuitive. People want to try to get back to shore but you want to relax and float," says Duesk.
Duesk recommends swimmers swim parallel to the beach, until they do not feel that ocean has a pull on them. Once that happens, swimmers should swim back to the shore at an angle, letting the waves push them back in.
"Some people might not be strong swimmers or you might be tired and feel like you can't keep swimming and so if you can just float, stay on the surface of the water and look back to shore and call and wave for help that will give a chance to for public safety personnel to come and rescue you," says Duesk.
In the U.S., from 2014 to 2023, rip currents were the third leading cause of weather related deaths, killing an average of 71 people every year.