As the water pounds the coast, it searches for a way out. Once the wavesfinally reach a channel, the water rushes out to sea, causing a riptide.The effect won't normally endanger an experienced swimmer, but it's reasonenough for lifeguards to be concerned.
A calm day at the beach can hide many of the storms that brew in theocean. As the tide goes out, the ocean can stir itself up and outcausing riptides that can challenge even the best of swimmers.
Lifeguard Johnny Todd says riptides have been known to carry swimmers 150yards out past the breakers. In that situation, an unexperienced swimmermay find him or herself in trouble.
A few years ago Todd Wakely was caught in a riptide. Luckily, he knewwhat to do. Instead of swimming back towards shore, he swam parallel tothe shoreline. But not everyone can get out on their own. Last summer,Wrightsville Beach lifeguards had to save close to 200 people in one day--all pulled out by riptides.
The lifeguards do what they can, but they know it can take only a matterof seconds for a riptide to pull a swimmer into dangerous water.
There have been no problems recently at Wrightsville Beach because ofriptides, but Carolina Beach was forced to close because the tides weretoo strong for swimmers.
Lifeguards advise swimmers to take a good look at what the water is doingbefore going in.
Riptides are generally not dangerous, they will not pull you under.Most people get in trouble when they try swimming directly into the riptide.So it's best to swim parallel to shore to get out of the current. Alsowhen swimming in an unfamiliar area, ask the lifeguard about anydangerous spots.
A good sign of riptide infested water is a foamy and choppy appearance.The water is also dirtier because the waves have turned up sand. Onceyou're out of an area where there are no waves, there's a good chanceyou're also out of the riptide.