Dangerous rip currents are creating treacherous conditions for swimmers at San Diego’s beaches, forcing a number of rescues Thursday and Friday.
Two young men are still in Scripps Encinitas Hospital’s intensive care unit after they were pulled unconscious from Moonlight Beach by a pair of junior lifeguards Thursday.
On Friday, another man was rushed to the hospital when his head hit the sand as he was tossed about in the water.
“Some of the rip currents that we have in San Diego County at certain times of the year with certain conditions – they’re so extreme that even the best of lifeguards and the best ocean swimmers are not going to be able to get in through that rip current,” said Capt. Larry Giles with the city of Encinitas Marine Safety Department.
Now, the city is working to make beachgoers more aware about the dangers expected over the next few days.
According to Giles, a southern swell is bringing more flashing rip currents across the San Diego County coast.
“They weren’t in one geographic area all the time throughout the day, so it was tough to predict where the rip currents were going to flash,” said Giles.
The sudden currents take people out to sea, and before they know it, they can’t get back to the beach because the pull against them is too strong.
Giles’ best advice if you get caught in one?
“Don’t fight the rip. You get into a rip current and you start fighting it, you fatigue out, and then you succumb to possible drowning,” said Giles.
Instead, you should swim parallel to the shore – down or up the beach – until you are out of the current. At that point, you can turn back toward the shore and swim in.
Avoiding those rip currents can be another challenge, and if you’re not a regular to the beaches, it can be hard to spot them.
Giles described them as sandy discolorations in the water that look like streams or creeks running out to sea, and they typically have white caps.
But the best way to tell is to ask a lifeguard.
“So we ask, first thing when you come to a beach, go to a beach that’s staffed by lifeguards,” said Giles. “Second is come to a lifeguard station, ask for information: where the rip currents are, where the best place is to swim that day.”
Lifeguards will often set aside safe areas just for swimmers, indicated by yellow flags.
Giles also recommends that you never swim beyond your means, always swim with a buddy and if you bring your boogie board, wear fins and the leash that attaches to your board.