ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) — After a 59-year-old man was drowned and his 24-year-old son was nearly drowned in a rip current Tuesday, officials are doubling down on their warnings of rip current dangers.
Atlantic Beach lifeguards swim in rip currents, to determine what color flag they’re going to fly that day.
“I swim in them to see how strong they are,” said Darby Sharwood, a lifeguard. “I want to know what we are dealing with that day.”
“You’re not actually in there feeling this current pass you and everything else,” said Atlantic Beach fire Chief Adam Snyder. “What you are feeling is, you aren’t making progress to the point where you are trying to get to the shore, which is safety.”
Lifeguards say there are rip currents all along the shore and know exactly what people need to do to get out safely.
“First thing is, truly, if you find yourself in trouble, scream for help,” said Synder.
One you get someone’s attention, relax.
“If you get caught in a rip current, you know, recognize it, stay calm,” said Sharwood.
“Worst possible thing is panic,” Synder said. “Once you feel the grip of the rip, stop, swim parallel to shore, then start swimming in.”
Once you’ve broken out of the rip current and gotten a good distance away, swim diagonally back to the shore to safety.
Lifeguards say the currents easy to feel but hard to see, which is why people need to prepare themselves before coming to the beach.
“When they’re coming down here to the beach, understand what rip currents are,” said Snyder. “Do the research, pay close attention to the National Weather Service and local weather stations telling you what the rip current threats are for that day.”
The chief stresses for people to come to the guarded beaches – all these deaths have happened in unguarded areas.
He says that if you still choose to go to an unguarded shore and see someone in danger, the key is flotation.
Grab anything you can to keep you and the victim afloat – a cooler, boogie board — until the fire department can make their way to you.