South Coast Fever

Youngsters saved from nasty rip current

Rip currents are a real danger to bathers.

A Friday afternoon swim at Silver Beach in Port Edward turned into a harrowing ordeal for two students recently.
Thanks to local rescue services tragedy was avoided.

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) station commander for Port Edward, Gert du Plessis, said that on this day, a newly formed sandbank caused the currents to shift with the tide, creating a rip current.

Unaware of the danger, the students entered the water and found they could not return to shore.

Thankfully, the pair were spotted by lifeguards from Simunye Surf Lifesaving, who swiftly alerted local rescue services.

NSRI’s Port Edward duty crew dispatched their quad bike and rescue vehicle, along with rescue swimmers, and launched their JetRIB.

“By the time we arrived on the scene, one swimmer had already been rescued by the lifeguards,” said Du Plessis.

“But two lifeguards, as well as the remaining swimmer, a man (20), were still about 200m off-shore.”

Thankfully, Du Plessis and his crew reached them in the breaking surf line aboard the JetRIB, and the student was pulled aboard the rescue craft, along with one lifeguard, as there was not enough space for all three.

After bringing the student to shore where he was attended to by ambulance services, the JetRIB returned to collect the remaining lifeguard.

“Rip currents are a real danger,” said Du Plessis.

A week before, they rescued a father and son from a rip in the same location.

Umtamvuna River mouth, just south of Port Edward, as well as Leisure Bay beach, are also drowning hotspots thanks to rip currents.

No one ever imagines they’ll get caught in a rip current. In fact, most people are unaware of the existence or danger of rip currents, let alone how to spot and avoid them, which is why being educated about them is so important.

* Water through a surf zone that is a different colour from the surrounding water.
* A change in the incoming pattern of waves (often the waves are not breaking in a rip channel).
* Seaweed, sand ‘clouds’ or debris moving out to the backline where waves are forming through the surf zone.
* Turbulent or choppy water in the surf zone in a channel or river-like shape flowing away from the beach. How to survive a rip current:
As with all risks, avoiding rip currents altogether is the safest strategy. To do this, swim at a beach where lifeguards are on duty and swim between their flags.

If you do get caught in one, here’s what to do:
* Stay calm and force yourself to relax.
* Swim slowly and conservatively at 90 degrees in the direction that you are being carried in (do not fight or try to swim against the current).
* So long as you can float, you will be safe until you can escape the current by swimming to the side (out of it) and then back to the beach.
* Be sure to maintain a slow and relaxed pace until you reach the shore or assistance arrives.


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