Rip currents can be deadly--exhausting even strong swimmers who try to fight being carried out to sea. About 100 people caught in the currents die each year; this year the total includes two men from Massachusetts.
When a strong current is carrying you out to sea, your survival instincts might not tell you to go with the flow or swim parallel to the shore. But that's what you need to do.
Fortunately, MIT Sea Grant is now getting the word out on these currents--in English and Spanish--with a poster campaign on New England beaches.
Rip currents--currents of water that rush away from shore in narrow channels--are a powerful and dangerous phenomenon at many ocean beaches in Massachusetts. The risk is greatest at this time of year, when everyone heads to the ocean for vacation.
If you're caught in a rip current, stay calm and don't fight it. To escape the current, swim parallel to the shoreline; when free of the current, swim at an angle away from the current, toward shore. If you can't swim out of the current, float or tread water. And if you need help, wave or call out.
And take a look at the signs at your local beach. Working with the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, towns, harbormasters, surf clubs and other groups, MIT Sea Grant has distributed posters about rip current safety throughout the state.
For more information about rip currents, visit web sites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and MIT Sea Grant.