The currents of undertow or “rip” are formed when the water that has been pressed on the shore tends to flow back towards the ocean. As the water turns back, a channel forms towards the sea at a certain speed that can put even the most experienced swimmers, the so-called “rip”, into difficulty. The water of a “rip” often appears darker, because it is deeper and calmer because there are no breaking waves. The backwash current usually slows down and stops behind the breaking point of all the waves. The “rips” are marked on the beaches with large signs warning against the “dangerous current”.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I END UP IN A “RIP”?
If you end up in a “rip”, here’s what you need to do:
- Keep calm, don’t panic and just float to save your strength.
- Raise one arm, preferably the weaker one, to get someone’s attention and use your stronger arm like a paddle with your legs to try to stay afloat until help arrives.
- Never swim upstream, as the backwash currents travel in all different directions. Instead, try to figure out which way the water current (“rip”) is dragging you. Only then, if you have the strength, do you swim left or right (perpendicular) with respect to the “rip”.
- If you are not saved, the current will take you beyond the breaking line of the waves. It aims to move you towards the foam line of the waves that could indicate a sandbar and get carried away by the waves towards the shore.
LIFEGUARDS’ PHONE NUMBER
Choose a supervised beach and make sure that you or someone you are with has recorded or stored the lifeguards’ phone number on their mobile phone.
WHAT IS THE PHONE NUMBER FOR EMERGENCIES IN AUSTRALIA?
000 is the number to be dialed to contact police, ambulances or firefighters. Use it only in an emergency.
- If you see someone with a raised arm, immediately alert the lifeguard or surfer lifeguard.
- Call the 000 number and alert the emergency services.
- Report the problem to those close to you so they can also ask for help and keep an eye on the position.
- Never try to save anyone by yourself, because you could get yourself into trouble.
WHAT IF I HAVE A CRAMP WHILE SWIMMING?
If a cramp occurs while you are swimming, stay calm and continue to move the other limbs to stay afloat. If you find yourself in shallow water, try to stand up and stretch, otherwise raise your arm to ask for help.
When you’re safe on the ground again, make sure you drink plenty of water.
You will immediately feel a burning sensation that depending on your pain threshold can last up to 30 minutes and usually cause swelling of the lymph nodes. To remove the stinging filaments or the tentacles of the jellyfish use the fingertips, where the skin is thicker, to remove them completely from the skin.
Be careful not to touch your face or skin to prevent the tentacle from remaining on your finger.
Reach the nearest shower and bathe the affected area with warm water.
Alert the lifeguards so they can alert the other swimmers.
Shark attacks are very rare and many beaches have special protection nets. However, it is always advisable to avoid swimming at sunset, near the mouth of the rivers or offshore in order to further reduce the risk. The safest place to swim is always between the red and yellow flags.