How to Fight a Rip Tide


Getting caught in a rip current is no day at the beach. But it doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. With a few easy steps, you can slip out of a rip tide and get back to working on that tan.

1. Know Your Enemy

The best way to conquer a rip tide is to avoid it entirely. Rip tides occur when breaking waves cross underwater obstacles separated by a small gap, like a pair of sandbars, before being forced back out to sea. Rip currents can be tough to spot, but if you see breaks in waves rolling into shore, water that’s a different shade than its neighbors, or lines of particularly choppy water, swim somewhere else.

2. Don’t Fight It

It sounds crazy, but if you still stumble into a rip tide, don’t try to battle back to shore against the current. You will lose. The rip tide is stronger than you are, and the water can hit speeds of up to eight feet per second. (That’s faster than Olympic swimmers!) Fighting back against the current won’t get you anywhere, but it’s sure to wear you out.

3. Take a Parallel Path

Instead of fighting back towards the beach against the rip tide, swim parallel to the shore. Think of the rip tide as a conveyor belt that you need to get off of. Make your move for one of the edges, where the water will be behaving normally.

4. Wait It Out

If you can’t swim out of the rip current, don’t give up. Simply stay calm and conserve your energy by floating or treading water as the current carries you out to sea. Eventually, the rip tide’s pull will weaken, allowing you to swim out of its range.

5. Head Home

Once you’re clear of the rip current, it’s time to use that energy you saved. Swim back towards shore using the incoming waves to help propel you towards the beach. Take it easy swimming in, and let a lifeguard know about the rip current that caught you.
* * *
Once you’re safely back on the sand, you will have gotten a full day’s exercise. It’s now the perfect time to sit back with an ice-cold Dos Equis and enjoy the view.

How to Shave With a Straight Razor

Our Be More Interesting series will teach you new skills to wow your friends. Today, Max Silvestri learns to shave with a straight razor. 

How to Cross a River Without a Bridge

Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
* * *
Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.


More from mental floss studios