The beach is a fantastic place, you get to relax, spend time with friends, and enjoy the warmth of the sun. However, it is not all fun and games. The beach and the sea can be a dangerous place and you need to be aware of the danger. More importantly, you need to know what to do if faced with any of the issues.
Most people have heard of swimmers surviving shark attacks by punching them. But, the reality this is an isolated incident, there are much more common risks on the beach and in the water that you are likely to face. One of these is the undertow.
Monitoring the beach to warn of dangers in the water and help to save lives is one of the main reasons for community fundraising to support the local surf lifesavers.
What Is An Undertow?
An undertow is a current under the waves. This is part of what makes it so dangerous as it can be very hard to spot from the surface. The undertow always moves in the opposite direction to the water. In fact, it is a direct result of the waves breaking on the shore.
As a wave hits the shore the previous wave is still draining away. This means it goes under the incoming wave, effectively moving out as the waves come in. You will have felt it if you have stood at the edge of the shore and your feet feel like they are being pulled out to sea as the waves break.
In most cases, it is relatively mild. The problem occurs when the returning wave has nowhere to go and pressure builds up. When it finally finds a way out it will rush out to sea, creating a powerful current. This is known as a rip or rip current.
Undertows Are Usually Low Risk
In most cases, an undertow is not exceptionally dangerous, unless you panic. Because the undertow is under the water, if you get caught in one you will be pulled under the sea. This is when most people panic and thrash around, attempting to swim back to shore.
Surviving An Undertow
In fact, the best thing you can do is to pause, allowing the water to tumble you around. Then, once you have orientated on where the surface of the water is, swim upward. It can help to swim upward at an angle away from the beach but you may not be abler to tell which angle this is.
The critical thing is to swim steadily upward until you break the surface. You can then take a deep breath. In most cases, you should be able to swim slowly back to the beach as an undertow is not powerful enough to prevent this. This is significantly different from a rip that is usually too powerful to swim against.
But, you should also call and wave for help. It is best to get yourself checked out medically before you go back into the water.