Danger lurks in the warm, summer waters

Heading to the seaside for fun and relaxation doesn't come without some risk.

    As summer sets in and the heat increases, people flock to their local beaches and fly abroad to find the perfect holiday destination.

    A weather phenomenon known as a rip current will often form in the water just offshore that may ruin your day at the beach. 

    Rip currents are strong, narrow currents running out to sea from the beach, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water.

    Rip currents can form at any beach with breaking waves. The warning signs of a rip current include a break in the pattern of incoming waves, a region of choppy water, different colours within the water, and a line of foam containing seaweed or other debris moving away from the shoreline.

    These currents are mainly caused by cold fronts that increase onshore winds and push more water away from the shore. Higher winds may produce rip currents with the combination of low and high-pressure systems close to each other, with the strong winds forming as the dividing line between the two different air masses.

    According to the US Lifesaving Association, more than 80 percent of beach rescues performed by lifeguards each year involve rip currents.

    In the United Kingdom, the majority of Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. They are a major cause of accidental drowning on beaches in the UK and all across the world.

    Rip currents are especially powerful in larger surf, but never underestimate the power of any water. They are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures such as piers and groynes.

    They tend to flow at 1.6 to three kilometres per hour, but can reach 6.5 to 8km/h, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer.

    If you get caught in a rip current, the RNLI recommends the following advice, telling us not to try to swim against it, or you will get exhausted.

    • If you can stand, wade, don't swim
    • If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore
    • Always raise your hand and shout for help

    The US Lifesaving Association warns the deadliest month for rip currents along the US Atlantic coast in August.

    So, as you head for the beaches this month, wherever you may be, beware and take care.

    SOURCE: News agencies