Living by the beach is amazing and in the summer nothing beats spending the cooling evening splashing and playing in the sea.
But living by the sea also means you have to be aware of the hidden dangers lurking below the water. The biggest and most dangerous of these are riptides.
One sunny hot day four years ago hubby took the eldest three to the beach after tea to cool down and play in the sea. Ryan was 11 at the time, Becky 8 and Ruby 6. I stayed home with Rhian who was 3 as I was heavily pregnant and unable to cope with the heat.
Whilst they were playing with their body boards in the sea, hubby was distracted by a phone call and he turned his back on the sea for just a few minutes and in those few minutes tragedy almost struck.
Ryan suddenly realised something was wrong with Becky and she was quickly being pulled out deeper to sea with her board and she was panicking and crying and shouting to her dad for help but he couldn’t hear her.
Ryan realised he would have to act really quickly otherwise Becky would be pulled out to sea and she would be too far away to help. Thinking quickly he pushed his bodyboard towards her whilst holding on to the string and told her to grab on to the board. She managed to grab it and he quickly pulled her out of the riptide and back towards the beach.
It was all over in a matter of seconds and hubby didn’t realise until Becky came out of the water sobbing and crying with Ryan’s arm around her as he tried to comfort her.
Even now the thought of what could have happened sends shivers down my spine, especially when two years later tragedy did strike when two teenage boys from the city were caught in a riptide and sadly lost their lives!
Becky was so proud of her brother for saving her life, that she applied to Blue Peter for him to receive a Gold Blue Peter badge which are very rare indeed. Each year only a few are awarded in exceptional circumstances for outstanding achievements, for example being solely responsible for saving someone’s life, or showing amazing and unique bravery, courage and citizenship. Sadly, despite him saving her life Blue Peter didn’t agree that he deserved a gold badge but told him to apply for a normal Blue Peter badge himself. Becky was very disappointed that Blue Peter didn’t agree that his act of bravery was good enough to win him the gold badge, but to her, he will always be her hero!
But what are Riptides?
According to the RNLI, Riptides or rip currents as they can also be known as, are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water.
They tend to flow at 1–2mph but can reach 4–5mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer.
Rips are especially powerful in larger surf, but never underestimate the power of any water. They are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.
How to spot and avoid a rip current
Rip currents can be difficult to spot but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface.
If you do find yourself caught in a rip:
- Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.
- If you can stand, wade don’t swim.
- If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.
- Always raise your hand and shout for help.
If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.