Drowning at Jersey Shore highlights danger of riptides

The risk has been low, but lifeguards say the strong currents can pop up anytime.

Kristen Johanson
July 06, 2018 - 9:00 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A man drowned in Surf City, New Jersey this week while swimming in a riptide. The risk has been low, but lifeguards say the strong currents can pop up anytime, and without warning. So how you can stay safe while swimming in the ocean?

Rip currents form when there is an overflow of sea water coming into shore, whether created by strong winds or a storm out at sea.

"They are often very strong," said Mark Jamieson, Chief of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. "Anyone who has been in a lazy river, it doesn't feel too much different. The different might be the force, but because you are moving with it, you don't feel the resistance.

Jamieson says they look like rivers flowing parallel to the coast.

"It may be cloudy or look like it's a different shade," he said, "because it's churning up water underneath and making the sand spin underneath it."

He says the best thing to do is stay calm, and swim or float parallel to the shore.

"Do not swim against the rip current and wear yourself down," Jamieson said. "It's like being on a treadmill. There is more force in the water than what we can swim."

And if you have a surf board or boogie board, stay with it. 

"Sometimes it's safer and easier to just let the rip current take you out, because they do have an endpoint," Jamieson said.

And make sure to always swim in front of a lifeguard stand.