While sharks are thought of as the greatest deadly predator, it seems like rip currents are the silent killer. The Florida Department of Health posted on their Twitter to beware of rip currents if you're visiting a Florida beach for spring break, linking to a guide that will help people be more informed about rip currents and their dangers.
Only four people die from shark attacks around the world, according to a report released in late January. The four shark-related deaths took place in the USA, Australia, Egypt, and Brazil. However, 25 people died in Florida alone, due to rip currents in 2018. Florida has the highest rate of deaths from rip currents, with North Carolina following behind with 16 deaths due to rip currents.
The victims of rip current deaths are mostly men between the ages of 10 and 29; rip currents kill an average of 57 people in the U.S. every year. While rip current deaths have decreased in the last three decades, they still remain a dangerous threat, especially to tourists who are often unaware of the danger. On the other hand, shark-related deaths have dropped in the USA and around the globe.
In the spring break central city of Miami, rip currents pose a greater threat to travelers who are not used to Florida beaches and are less knowledgeable about them. A rip current is defined as a narrow, fast-moving channel of water that is 10 to 30 yards long; it starts near the beach and goes offshore. Rip current deaths come from people unexpectedly getting caught in a rip current, often which are surfers.
Ocean Today released a rip current survival guide that outlined different ways to avoid a rip current and how to survive a rip current if you are caught in one. Firstly, if you are caught in a rip current, stay calm; rip currents do not pull you underwater, they pull you away from the shore. Swim out of the rip current, swim parallel to the shore, and then follow the waves back to shore at an angle.
Rip currents can happen in any type of weather; it is a common misconception that rip currents only happen on bad-weather days. However, rip currents are caused by the waves and the tide, so they can even happen on sunny days and waves of only two to three feet high. They happen most common at low-tide near sandbars.
Spring breakers, go out and have a fun time, but remember to be cautious while at the beach and watch out for signs of rip currents.
Read NOAA's guide here on dangerous rip currents and how to spot them.