No Sense of Danger Leads to Family in Danger

As I am writing this, I am laying awake in bed, thanking God for saving me, my 11 year old son, and my fiance from drowning this afternoon. It was a beautiful, sunny day today and being that we live 2 blocks from the beach, we decided to take advantage of such a lovely afternoon.

Around 4 pm, we took a walk down to the beach and went into the water. My son had his boogie board, and he and my fiance were going in search of some nice waves to ride. I noticed quickly that the waves were pulling me down beach and away from the lifeguard stand fairly quickly. I kept telling my son to walk back toward the lifeguard stand so that they would be able to keep an eye on him. We all made it back in view of the lifeguard stand.

Structural-CurrentNot feeling in danger, we continued swimming and began swimming straight out into the ocean. We were all together when I noticed that we were at the end of the fishing pier, which is pretty far out. I mentioned this to my fiance and then realized that my feet were no longer touching the ocean floor. My fiance then said to me “I am being pulled backwards.” That is when panic set in. I tried my hardest to swim away from the currrent but it was too strong. Waves started crashing over me and I couldn’t catch my breath. Just then a wave came and my fiance pushed my son who was on his boogie board towards me. I grabbed the board and was going to try to flag down the lifeguard when, just then, my feet were able to touch the ocean floor.

We were stuck out in the current for only about 7 minutes but it felt like an eternity. I just kept thinking “Oh my God, I might die right now.” We were exhausted and pushed about a half a block away from where we started from. Thankfully, we all made it out okay but it scared me to death. I can’t even sleep tonight and am not sure whether or not I will be going into the ocean anytime soon. I told the lifeguard how bad the current was, and he said he was milliseconds away from jumping in to rescue us.

Unfortunately, in our town, we do not have flags that let us know about the currents. I am not sure if we have rip current signs posted anywhere, however I would love to find out how we can get that information out there. I am 36 years old and a pretty good swimmer, but today was the scariest day of my life and reminded me to respect the ocean. When we got home I had my son watch your video on how to swim out of rip currents. Thank you for all you do in raising awareness on such an important topic.

– New Jersey

Mother and Daughter Saved from Drowning in Lake Superior

middlebayrip2While the waves of wily Lake Superior can offer swimmers, kayakers and surfers a wild ride, it can also turn a good time into a dangerous situation in a hurry.

Jamie Dolan and her daughter Tyler of Marquette were enjoying riding the waves recently when Lake Superior’s strong rip current started dragging them far from the beach at Presque Isle Park – a spot favored by surfers and kayakers for its waves and strong currents.

“We wanted to just jump in the waves — body surf,” Dolan said. “We were having fun.”

Before they knew it, however, the two began feeling like they were “in quick sand,” as Tyler described it.

“It brought us out farther,” Tyler said. “We were stuck there and being taken under.”

Dolan remembered the techniques she learned in water rescue class – do not panic and tread water instead of trying to fight the current. But as the 5-foot to 7-foot waves rose above her and her daughter’s heads and they found themselves fighting for a breath nearly 100 yards from shore, she knew that they were in serious trouble.

Fortunately, kayaker Bob Hendrickson of Negaunee noticed the dire situation and paddled toward Tyler. As he struggled to help her hang on to his kayak and get her to shore, surfer Mike Horton of Marquette, rushed to help Tyler’s mom, who was about 50 feet away. Using his board, he was able to get Dolan safely to shore; however, Tyler and Hendrickson continued to struggle.

“(Bob) tried kayaking to shore – I was kicking as hard as I could,” Tyler said. “But we were just stuck in the riptide.”

Horton returned to the water along with fellow surfer Dan Schetter to help Hendrickson rescue Tyler.

Meanwhile, Hendrickson worked to keep Tyler above water. He said when he first reached her, he knew the situation was serious.

“She was on her way down,” he said. “She was pretty exhausted.”

Horton attached his surfboard ankle leash to Tyler’s wrist and all the rescuers worked to keep her head above water.

With the three men’s efforts, along with two other unidentified surfers and kayakers, Tyler was brought to shore safely.

“Those guys worked like crazy to get us in,” Dolan said. “When it was all over, we hugged and they went back to what they were doing.”

Hendrickson said he was relieved.

“The current took them out in a matter of minutes,” he said. “Things happened so fast. It was definitely a teamwork effort — we worked well together.”

Hendrickson and Horton agreed that this incident is a perfect example of how Lake Superior’s rip currents can take swimmers by surprise in mere moments.

“It’s like a river, we use it to paddle out,” Horton said. “It’s important the education gets out there about these rips. You can get pulled out so fast.”

Hendrickson said the current on that day was especially strong.

“It was one of the strongest rip currents I’ve been in,” he said.

Despite their harrowing experience, Dolan and Tyler plan to continue swimming in the lake they love. However, they plan on being more cautious.

“On Sunday, we went to McCarty’s Cove where there are lifeguards,” Dolan said. “It’s easy to become complacent when you’ve lived here all your life.”

Tyler agreed: “Don’t quit doing what you love just because something like this happens.”

Signs Save Lives

No swimmingI am from Michigan and didn’t know there are rip currents on the Great Lakes in places. But being from the Midwest, the sign posted at Pepper Park on North Hutchinson Island was the first place I saw the diagram of a rip current. I learned a lot from just that one sign. My boys and I used to stop at the sign each morning and review the information on rip currents before getting in the water.

Just this past week we were visiting again and while in the water I felt a strong suction out toward the ocean. It wasn’t super deep where I was standing so I was fine, however, if that had been my 4-year-old playing too far away from me, it easy to see how he could have been pulled out even in shallow water.

We had a great week at the beach and thanks to the signs posted, have always been mindful of the possible hazards around us.

– Joanna, Michigan

Originally posted on

Close Call for Wife and Husband

Generic wave10This past Saturday evening, my husband and I went to the beach. We go once a year. We waded out in waist high water and had fun jumping into the waves, which were larger than usual. The life guards were flying the yellow flags. We made sure we stayed away from the nearby fishing jetty. All of a sudden we couldn’t touch the bottom.

We tried to swim but couldn’t. Then we found ourselves over rocks that were sharp and jagged – probably left from the hurricane. We tried swimming more but it was very hard. It took a bit to realize we were in a rip current. The waves kept breaking over my head and I was getting tired. I started to panic. I kept calling my husband to save me. I was so scared. I also didn’t think the life guard was still there.

It seemed like a long time and I finally got back on the rocks. I would swim with the wave then plant my feet in the rocks to hold me when the water rushed out. It was very hard. I finally made it to shore but my husband didn’t. I was worried he would be too tired because he kept coming back for me. I prayed to God to stop the waves and give me strength. He did. I got the life guard and he got my husband.

I have never been so terrified in my life. I wish I had read about rip currents before this happened. I’m 51 and my husband is 54. We are in fair shape. If we hadn’t been we may not have made it.

– Cindy, East Coast

Originally posted on

Rescuer Needed Rescuing

Generic wave9On August 8, 2011, my son Ryan and I went for one last swim at Garden City Beach, SC before heading back home. He was riding the waves in and I was just enjoying the cool water as it had been so hot.

After being in the water for about 40 minutes I noticed all the waves had gone. About that time we could hear a woman yelling from shore for her son to “come back in, you’re too far out.” We turned our heads to see who she was yelling to and saw this 10 year old boy in distress. He had a Styrofoam boogie board next to him but didn’t realize it was there as he appeared to be panicking.

Ryan swam toward him and got to him after about his 3rd time going down. He was under water so Ryan went under and pushed him to the top. I arrived a few seconds later and grabbed the boy at which point he tried to climb on top of me. By this time the people on shore were gathering and, getting smaller. I can’t say for sure how far out we were but it had to be at least 75 to 100 yards. I had a hold of the boy and began swimming, to no avail, back to shore. I swam as hard as I could for what seemed like forever but was probably 5 to 7 minutes.

The lifeguards got to us just in time as I’m not sure how much longer I could have lasted. I’ve been caught in a couple of rip currents before but for whatever reason, I did not swim parallel to shore. I don’t think that little boy knew how to swim and was relying on his boogie board for safety.

I’m happy to say we are all doing fine.

– Bill, South Carolina

Originally posted on

Losing Joshua

Generic wave6My son, Joshua Scurlock, drowned while swimming with a friend near Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. He was 19 years old. His friend helplessly watched him drown after the exhaustion of fighting the current to save his own life. I tell him every chance I get, that he did the right thing staying on the beach and getting help. Of course, he feels extremely guilty for not going back in the water to save him, something he could not physically do. Instead he did the best thing possible, yell for help.

An experienced surfer was just coming in for the day because the waves were so rough and risked his own life to try rescue my son. It took everything within him to pull his body up onto his surfboard and maneuver his way back up to shore. When they reached the beach, he began CPR; however, it was only seconds before paramedics arrived. I don’t really know how long my son was in the water but I can imagine the difficulty the surfer experienced while fighting the current to reach him. He had already drowned when he reached his lifeless body. I thank God every day for that surfer. He brought my son’s body back to me. He could have been washed out to sea and I would not have had the chance to bring him home for a proper burial.

Josh grew up in Indiana and we frequently visited Florida, as many other Hoosiers do. I moved Josh to his “paradise” apartment in Cape Canaveral, FL, on September 1, 2004. Josh died November 13, 2004. He was fulfilling his dream, living five blocks from the beach, appreciating the beauty of the ocean every day. He loved the water and he was a great swimmer. Unfortunately, living far from the ocean, he was never taught about rip currents.

I’m now trying to raise rip current awareness in my state so that no one else loses their life. I’m told over half of the deaths from rip currents are people from the Midwest. This is all the more reason to raise awareness. Everyone should know how to escape from a rip current. We teach our children what to do if caught in a tornado because we see a lot of them in the state of Indiana. Why do we not teach them about rip currents? Is it because we don’t have any water here? I don’t know the answer but I’m doing everything in my power to change it. If you talk to people here, they don’t even know what a rip current is, much less how to save their own life if caught in one. I’m starting with the high schools around spring break time. It’s the perfect opportunity to help spread awareness. All of the kids flock to the beaches during vacation. They all relate to my son’s story and realize that this can happen to them. My goal is to reach the entire Midwest through our school systems.

John Lane, the heroic surfer who risked his life to bring me my son’s body, gave me the gift of being able to tell my son good-bye and kiss one last time. Tell everyone you know about rip currents and their potential dangers of taking a life. Help me in raising awareness, no matter where you live. I hope no one else has to say that kind of goodbye.

Originally posted on

A Close Call for Sisters

Generic Wave4It was early fall of 2002 and my husband and I were down for a weekend at Gulfshores, Alabama with my sister and her boyfriend. It was our first afternoon there and I had seen how bad the tides were and decided not to go in the water; however my sister had another idea when she arrived.

Without a care in the world and no regard to the wave action, she plunges in and took her boyfriend with her. Upon my realization she was in the water, I got to the beach in time to see her floating out and her boyfriend trying to make it to shore. I jumped in to swim out to my sister and before long, I felt the rip tide. There was no bottom left to the sea floor.

I had been in about 4 1/2 feet of water when this happened. I tried in vain to reach for my sister, who was struggling to swim towards the beach. I myself was stuck and could not swim inward. My husband pulled me from the tide and upon getting to shore, I ran for more help. It took 4 very strong young men to pull my sister in.

I have never experienced something so terrifying in my life and even though I knew to swim sideways and out of the trap, my fear of drowning and of my sister drowning displaced all knowledge. I believe my sister has a healthy respect now for the water and as for me, I have never been back in. Just for the record, we are both in our early 40s and both know how to swim. This can happen to anyone and your best chance of survival is to be aware of the dangers present!

– Toni, Alabama

Originally posted on