Lifeguards, surfers give advice on how to survive rip currents

VIDEO: Lifeguards, surfers give advice on how to survive rip currents

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - The National Weather Service issued a high rip current risk alert in Charleston through Sunday evening.

Though beaches are still open to the public, it advises people to stay out of the water because the currents can be life threatening.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water that flow away from shore and can pull you in that direction with them. Officials at Folly Beach say they post yellow flags to warn people of the potentially dangerous conditions. Lifeguards keep a closer watch over the people in the water.

Some people say it can be a scary experience if you're caught in a rip current and you don't know what to do. California native Steven Leuck says he's been caught in one before at another beach.

"We were just swimming out in the ocean and all the waves started parting and everyone started getting sucked out and lifeguards and Jet Skis started coming in," Leuck said.

He was able to escape, but if you're not a good swimmer it could be a different result.

Former professional surfer and surf coach Josh Wilson says it's important that people don't panic in the water. Wilson is also the owner of Charleston Surf Lessons.

"One of the biggest things you want to do if you're ever caught in a rip current is to relax, not panic and not freak out," Wilson said.  "That's when a lot of bad things happen."

If you're caught in a rip current you should first relax and don't try to fight the current. If you do you'll loose energy making you tired and that can lead to drowning. Lifeguards say the best thing to do is swim out to the sides parallel to the shore to escape the current.

Eric Craig is a lifeguard supervisor for Charleston County Park and Recreation at Folly Beach. He says at times they will have to advise swimmers to move closer to shore if conditions get worse.

"If you're not a good swimmer try to stay between knee and waist-high, children especially," Craig said. "If you know that they're not good swimmers keep shallow and if you're a parent stay close to them."

That National Weather Service warning extends through 5 p.m. on Monday.

More than 100 people in the United States drown from rip currents each year according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association. Rip currents are the reason for more than half of rescues made by beach lifeguards.

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