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

No One Notices as Trapped Boogie Boarder Saves Self

It was August 2011, and a tropical storm had just passed but was well out to Bermuda. I was body surfing with my boogie board on Figure Eight Island, NC, with some surfers. The waves weren’t breaking much closer to shore, so I decided to paddle out to where the surfers were in head deep water. Finally, a wave came that the surfers caught and rode. I was out for several more minutes expecting the surfers to return where I was. Instead they stayed in much closer to shore. I then realized that I couldn’t hear the waves anymore. There were also bubbles on the surface all around me, but they didn’t seem to be moving. I realized I was caught in a rip current.

boogieboardI could see my wife and the beach umbrella getting smaller and smaller on the shore. She was looking in my direction, but never saw me waving for help. I tried to swim with the boogie board at first, but if you’ve ever tried to do that you know that won’t work. I kept it with me though using the side stroke to swim. I watched the weather channel NOAA warnings and knew what to do when caught in a rip current. My training kicked in and I remember to swim along the shore for a while and then make my way back to shore. I was so exhausted when I made it to shore that I dropped. Nobody on the beach noticed what happened. I kissed the ground.

– Greg, North Carolina

Surfer Saves Surfer in NJ

For water sports, Mother Nature just humbled me when I was surfing 4 days ago in NJ. As you may know, our East Coast is post super Storm Sandy. My surf leash broke. I have acquaintances who surf and who surf without a leash. Perhaps, I erred on the temptation to contisurferdyenue surfing, but our present rip currents may be at an all time high. While I retrieved my board on 1st occasion, my 2nd wipe out separated me from my board, which went onto the beach leaving me boardless. I urge everyone to err on the side of safety, even if one is lifeguard trained, scuba trained, & brought up swimming surfer. I could not swim the seemingly easy 5 yards onto the beach. I could have died had it not been for a young surfer who saw me in distress and shoved my board back to me. Stay with your board on your 1st occasion.

I should have surfed body board style w/ my retrieved board back in. It is also possible to relax & take a few seconds to observe and feel tide direction then swim beachward at 1st opportunity. Prevention of incident would have been to replace the leash sooner, it was 7 years old-used monthly since purchase.

– George, New Jersey

Surfers Save Couple from Oregon Rip

My husband and I wanted to float behind where the waves were breaking, because we wanted a peaceful, less turbulent experience. We’d done this several times at a different beach with no trouble. We found at first that we were able to come and go from where we could touch bottom, so we felt there was no reason to be concerned. We headed back out where we couldn’t touch bottom again, and enjoyed the waves, which seemed to be getting bigger. My brothers were in the surf and called to us beckoning with large arm movements. We thought they just wanted us to join them in the more turbulent area, and we voiced our enthusiasm for the fun of where we were at. It never crossed our minds that we were in danger. It wasn’t long after that that we noticed that we were quite a bit further from shore than we were just a short time before. My husband suggested we head back in. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, thinking about what I’d been told about rip currents. I suggested maybe we should swim to the side, but at the same time, I felt uneasy about going to a place out of sight of our family. My husband expressed confidence that we should just swim slowly and steadily towards shore. We did so, but I kept feeling that sick sense of dread, and would increase my fury of motion. He would talk to me, encourage me to conserve strength and swim slowly. “But we are losing this fight!” my mind seemed to scream, “So I must fight *harder!*”

surfersripAt this point, the waves seemed truly daunting. I didn’t think waves this far out could break, but they were breaking over us. If I focused all my attention on breathing at appropriate times and keeping my head above water between waves, I would’ve been fine, but with my single-mindedness to somehow overcome the current, I was accidentally taking in seawater. Because of my intense emotion, this time seemed very long. I felt certain that our family knew of our plight and was getting help, but I wondered what was taking them so long! Suddenly I saw two swimmers coming towards us in wetsuits with boards. I just assumed they were the help my family called for. They were not. They were surfers there to have fun like everyone else. But they knew we were in danger, and they acted quickly. They urged both me and my husband to get on their boards. This was a great relief, and I thought it was all over and all was well. I kept repeating over and over, “Thank you for saving us!” But it wasn’t over yet.

One of the men was more confident than the other. They discussed swimming sideways, but could detect no advantage to one side or the other. So they opted for straight in. The man helping me was the more certain one. With every wave, he pushed the board forward as hard as he could, trying to get the most advantage out of the wave. The waves were throwing me hard, and one capsized me. He would warn me when big waves were approaching, instructing me to hold on tight, don’t let go. At last, we seemed to be getting closer, and he said, “This is it, you’re going to be OK.” But that last wave threw me to the ground hard and I hyper-extended my back with a sudden force. I hoped that I hadn’t just permanently injured my spine! But moments later I was standing on my own two feet. Amongst cheers of a large, watching crowd, I was welcomed in, people asking me how I was. The woman who called 911 put a blanket around me, and told me she’d been caught in a rip current in Mexico where she had to swim along the shore for a mile before making it back in.

All I could think of is, “Where is my husband? Is he safe?” They said he’d gotten closer, but then been pulled back out again. They finally came in, but further south from us, finding advantage in going side-ways. Once we were out, the Coast Guard and an ambulance had just arrived. All was well, and we were so glad for real-life heroes! A woman had died in a rip current in this area just the day before.

– Mary Cate, Oregon

Rip Almost Catches Man Catching Fish

SurfCastingRip currents are a hidden danger that is so underrated. I was surf casting in the Atlantic in the Palm Coast, Florida area. I was only about knee-deep in the water and struggled to get back to the beach. Yes, there were warnings out, but the fish bite better then, and I thought if I only went out a little ways it would be OK. A child would have easily been swept away. Don’t assume you’re invincible.

– Mark, Ohio

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 http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/real_life.shtml