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

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

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

Life Vests Worthwhile Investments

Generic Wave8On Jun 21, 2011, I was playing in the surf at Nags Head, NC, with my two sons and my two nephews. We were enjoying crashing into the waves. Occasionally, I would dive under a wave and ride the next swell back into the beach.

I remember diving under a wave and coming back up and thinking that the water had grown very calm. I looked over my shoulder and thought to myself that I was further out than what I felt comfortable with. I looked back to the sea, so I wouldn’t get pounded by the next wave, and then back to the beach. In that short time I had been pulled farther out to sea and I could see everyone on the beach getting smaller. I was scared but I did not panic. I waved my hands over my head and yelled for help. I knew I was still getting pulled out and that I would need help to survive. I looked up to God and asked for his help because I did not want to die. On the beach, the rest of my family got the kids out of the water and called 911. One of our friends donned a life vest and swam out to me. We floated back into the shore together and got back on dry ground at about that time the first responders arrived.

I am 45 years old and a good swimmer. During basic training in the Navy many years ago I learned how to float and how to tread water. I was fortunate on many levels that day, I did not panic and one of our friends happened to have life vest because he had brought his sea kayak to the beach. Our family was probably most fortunate because it was me who was pulled out to sea and not one of our kids.

My advice to others is to swim in protected waters and to bring a couple of life vests down to the shore with you just in case you need them. You can purchase these for less than $20 each and had I known of the danger beforehand I would have had these with us.

– Jim, North Carolina

Originally posted on http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/real_life.shtml

Surfers Save Swimmer

Generic wave12I was at Wrightsville Beach, NC, 7 years ago (I think) and a hurricane was blowing up the coast. It was the day before they evacuated the beach because Cape Fear was in the path of a hurricane eye. The seas were higher than normal, but still very swimmable. I grew up swimming in the ocean and am very comfortable in it. I know about rip currents and fortunately, had learned what to do if I ever got caught. One of my favorite past times in the ocean is diving under breakers and floating over swells.

That afternoon, I dove under a wave as I have done countless times, but when I surfaced and looked back over my shoulder, I was way out from the shore. I knew immediately what had happened. I tried swimming parallel to the shore, but was still in a very strong current and began to tire quickly.

Then a wave broke over my head, and I felt the panic rising. I know that panic is one’s worst enemy in the water, so I floated and treaded water for a few minutes to catch my breath and relax. I could see my family on the shore trying to spot me in the water, but the swells were too big for them to see me waving. Once when I looked out to sea to keep an eye on the swells so I wouldn’t be caught unawares again, I realized that just a little further out, there were surfers.

Suddenly the light bulb went off in my head. Instead of trying to make it back to shore on my own, I turned and swam further out to where they were. I told them what had happened and asked if one of them would allow me to accompany him into shore using his board as a boogie board for both of us. Of course, one of them agreed.

It took both of us to get far enough away from the current so we could paddle back into shore. I feel very fortunate that I recognized what had happened, knew not to panic, and was able to find a solution.

Every kid who swims in the ocean should be taught this so you will have an endless supply of Real Life Story, not a list of death statistics. As for myself, I still love the ocean and swim in it every chance I get.

– Kathryn, North Carolina

Originally posted on http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/real_life.shtml

Survivor, Then Rescuer

Generic wave13Hi. My name is Bill Proenza and I am the Director for the Southern Region of the National Weather Service. My experience with rip currents is first hand.

At the age of 11, I was swimming off the Florida Coast, near Key Biscayne, and found myself carried into deep water. I tried to swim toward shore but to no avail. After being pulled under the water once, I called for help. Fortunately, an experienced swimmer pulled me to safety.

Following this event, I took lessons through the Red Cross swimming program. While the program helped me improve my swimming ability, it did not offer much insight on handling what we called “undertows” (rip currents). Nevertheless, the training did pay off two years later, when I had the chance to save a man who was trapped in a rip current, again off Florida’s east coast. I noticed him struggling in the water and crying out for help. I swam behind him and managed to push him at an angle toward the shore. He told me he couldn’t swim but found himself drawn into deeper and deeper water.

It is my hope that you take these safety rules and the dangers of rip currents to heart. If you do so, your trips to the coast should be pleasant, enjoyable and safe for you, your family and friends.

– Bill, Florida

Originally posted on http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/real_life.shtml

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