Whether you’re a surfer, water photographer or a simple swimmer, and were to spend hours at sea there’s a high chance you’d face some sort of dangerous situations that could cost you your life or at least give you a good scare. It is these basic rules you should remember to prevent the worst or at least come out unharmed from the currents of the sea.
1. Never turn your back on the sea
Yes it may sound obvious, but truly it’s not. This is something I’ve been told since I was a kid. It was these wise words that came from the mouths of those who made their living from the sea. The ocean is an unstable and impossible to control place, where most disasters happen due to overconfidence. I’m not talking about fear, but about respect. A short lapse of concentration could lead to disaster. Whatever your activity in the ocean is, always be aware what the conditions are doing. Experience will give you the ability to identify currents and read the signs of an incoming swell. Be careful and do not enter the water if you are not completely sure of what you’re doing.
2. Always use fins
Fins will give you maximum freedom of movement. Be sure to choose the correct size that feel comfortable. There is nothing worse than having sore feet from fins that don’t fit properly or tend to rub in the wrong places. Bodyboarding fins are usually sufficient for most cases. I wouldn’t recommend your everyday swim fins as they won’t do the job. For situations with strong currents you will need longer fins that will give you more power and use less energy.
3. Stay calm
Both in and out of the water, nerves are always going to be your worst enemy as they hinder your ability to react and distort your perception of reality and time. Nerves also cause an increase in the consumption of oxygen, which is the last thing you want if you find yourself stuck in a current. Positive thinking will also keep you in the right frame of mind and help the outcome to be so too!
4. Read the rips and currents
Currents are usually formed by an outlet of water driven ashore by the waves, and follow well defined patterns from the beach to the sea through a channel (see illustration below). Its intensity depends on the waves and the configuration of the shore. The currents are not always visible, so before entering the water work out where the waves are breaking and how the water is returning to the sea. If you do find yourself caught, work out which direction the current is taking you and see where the shore is before starting to swim in a specific direction.
5. Always swim perpendicular to the current
It is important to note one thing: Swimming upstream is not going to help escaping a current, it will Orly tire you. Usually, currents are not wide and the only way to escape them is by swimming in a perpendicular direction, typically parallel to the shore. It may seem stupid and feel like you’re getting further from the beach, but you´ll quickly find the current will no longer be dragging you away and you will then be able to swim back to the safety of the shore.