Is a rip tide a surfersf friend? Do undertows actually exist and if so what are they? Are ocean long shore currents dangerous even for advanced surfers?
Chances are if you know the correct answers to these questions you are a dedicated surfer. If you do not know the answers to these simple questions take the time to find the answers. Even if you do not plan to recreationally use the ocean chances are you know and care for some one who will. By taking the time to share ocean safety knowledge you may be taking the time to save a life. Share the knowledge.
Rip tides in reality are rip currents (there is no such thing as a rip tide), and yes they are an experienced surfers friend. Smart surfers use rip currents to get quickly to the waves with the least amount of expended energy paddling. Surfers smart enough to use rip currents are going with and using the ocean Rip Current flow. Surfers not smart enough to use the rip currents go against the ocean flow, expend unnecessary energy and make getting to the waves more difficult than it should be. Many times the best waves are found right along side of rip currents. Surfers who understand rip currents use them to full advantage.
Swimmers and inexperienced surfers who do not understand rip currents can get into real trouble. A rip current can swiftly pull a hapless swimmer from shallow water into deeper water sometimes far out to sea. Eighty percent of ocean rescues involve swimmers caught in rip currents. In the old days if caught in a rip current it was advised for a swimmer to swim parallel to the beach. Rip currents however do not always run specifically straight out, many times a rip current can run parallel or diagonal to the beach before heading out to sea. The best thing do if you are ever caught in a rip current is to swim for the closest waves. Remember where the waves are water is coming in, in between the waves is where water goes out.
Rip currents are associated more with the surf than they are the tides. Generally, the higher the waves become the more substantial the rip currents will be. Most rip currents begin along or on the shore. Watch the long shore feeder currents along the shore and they will reveal where a rip current begins and where it is going. As waves wash completely up the beach follow the water back out, notice where it goes. Rip currents often look like choppy or muddy rivers flowing away from shore.
Undertows are believed to be currents that pull swimmers under the water. Though rip currents which can pull swimmers out to sea do exist, undertows do not. There are no currents that will pull a swimmer under and keep him there. A swimmer may get knocked temporarily under by a wave but an ocean current will never take a swimmer under.
Long Shore Currents Long shore currents which run parallel to the shore can be dangerous in some cases to both swimmers and surfers. In addition to water currents constantly coming in and out water currents are constantly moving one way or the other along the shore. Many surfers choose some type up a beach marker before going out to the waves in order to maintain position and keep from drifting down the beach. Many a surfer has gone out surfing in one place and ended up coming back in to a completely different place way up or down the beach.
Life has its very own rip currents, undertows and long shore currents. All you have to do is recognize the currents around you. Some are currents are very real others that appear real do not actually exist at all. Go with the ones that are positive and get off the ones that may not be. If you do not see the currents going on around you, you are like a swimmer who does not understand the currents of the sea. If you see and understand how to positively use the currents around you, give thanks and share the knowledge, you may save a life. Aloha