44 Texas Coastal Bend tour guide Early Spring 2016 A very cool ride but one to avoid Sadly every year in the Coastal Bend a precious few of our millions of beachgoing visitors fall victim to the very natural elements that give us the wonderful beauty and enjoyment we find on our gulf beaches. But while Hollywood films and suburban legends would lead one to believe that the greatest dangers you might encounter at the beach are sharks of course stingrays jellyfish errant surfboards birds of prey or any number of perilous unknowns of the sea it is in fact the rip current that presents the greatest danger to bathers and surfers of all ages sizes and athletic prowess. Please take a few minutes to understand the danger of rip currents how to identify them and how to avoid and escape them. Courtesy of The Weather Channel and www.weather.com. A rip current is a narrow zone typically 3 to 20 yards wide of fast-flowing water 1-3 mph sometimes faster moving from shore to just beyond the breaker-zone. Rip currents are always present when waves break on a beach. Wave height wave period the time inter- val between successive waves breaker angle to the beach man-made obstacles piers and jetties and local deeper chan- nels in the surf zone all contribute to rip currents. Rip currents are stronger and extend to deeper water as breaking wave heights increase. But for weak swimmers or those who cannot swim waves high enough to break in water over their heads approximately 6 feet or deeper are sufficient to cause a person 6 feet or shorter to drown. That wave height can be as low as 4 feet Rip currents begin at the sand-water line and extend through the surf zone they can capture people in very shallow water and drag them to deeper water. Fortunate- ly most people are able to walk out of a rip current when water is knee deep or shallower. But waist deep or higher water can prevent a person from walking away. If you get caught in a rip current Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never fight the current. Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off of which you need to step to the side. Swim out of the current in a direc- tion following the shoreline. When out of the current swim at an angle away from the current toward shore. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current float or calmly tread water. When out of the current swim towards shore. If you are still unable to reach shore draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.