The beach is a fun place to be and the sea can be a great place to swim but there are hidden dangers in the ocean and with the absence of lifeguards at the moment we need to be extra cautious.
You'll find some handy information here about rip tides, currents etc and what to do if you get into trouble or see someone in trouble but the best advice is that if you're wondering whether or not the conditions are right for you to swim then err on the side of caution and save your swim for another day.
Rip Tide / Current
Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water.
They tend to flow at 1–2mph but can reach 4–5mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer.
How to spot and avoid a rip current
Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface.
Even the most experienced beachgoers can be caught out by rips, so don’t be afraid to ask lifeguards for advice. They will show you how you can identify and avoid rips.
The best way to avoid rips is to choose a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which have been marked based on where is safer to swim in the current conditions. This also helps you to be spotted more easily, should something go wrong.
If you do find yourself caught in a rip:
- Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll 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.
If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
Tide times and the height / strength of the tide varies daily.
A spring tide is which the difference between high and low tide is the greatest.
Spring tides occur when the Moon is either new or full, and the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth are aligned. When this is the case, their collective gravitational pull on the Earth's water is strengthened.
A neap tide is the opposite effect and occurs when the moon is at right angles to the earth-sun line (first or last quarter). The range of tide is smaller than average.
Range: The vertical difference between the high and low tide water levels during one tidal cycle.
During the period of a tide the water moves either in or out depending on whether it is a rising high tide or falling low tide at different speeds known as the 'Rule of Twelve'.
The rate of flow of the tide increases smoothly to a maximum speed halfway point between high and low tide, before smoothly decreasing to zero again.
The size and power of a wave is influenced by three main factors:
- how strong the wind is
- how long it has been blowing
- how far the wave has travelled (known as the fetch).
How steeply a beach slopes or shelves and the topography of the sea bed near the beach will also affect the size and type of wave often creating a strong' Dumping' wave.
Waves move in sets and the ‘seventh wave’ – the bigger wave in the middle of a set – often comes further up the beach. That it always happens on the seventh wave is a myth, but sometimes it does!
Spilling waves are softer and more consistent waves that break gradually as they approach the shore. They are ideal for beginner board riders. Start off in the shallow white water before you progress to deeper water and unbroken waves.
Dumping waves break powerfully in shallow water and should be avoided. They most commonly occur at low tide and break quickly with a lot of force making them dangerous for beginners.
When a wave breaks it loses some of its power and momentum. Watch out for surging waves - they don’t break, so they can knock you off of your feet more easily and drag you into deeper water.
Once the wave has broken and swept up the shore it will need to return the sea. This can create a very strong run of water which may be enough to knock you off your feet or loose your footing.