The Beach Beckons and so does the “Grip of the Rip” :: From the Archives


Wow! Last week I was counting down the days until Spring Break. Now two days into it I’m wondering how I will survive the week with them all home. And fighting. Thought about taking them down for a day or two to the beach but I am not sure the weather will let up. Besides that, their safety is a big concern of mine and since my husband has to work this week I worry about keeping them safe all on my own.

I revived this old post {below} from Summer last year about beach dangers and thought now was a good time to bring it back to life. Be careful at the beach if you’re heading that way this week. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Originally published June 21, 2013

Considering the proximity to South Padre Island, lots of valley-ites are spending their days there.

My husband will occasionally talk about red tides, rip currents, under currents, alongshore currents and blah blah blah. I am not a fan of the cold, sticky, salty water so it’s usually not a concern of mine what the ocean is doing. My kids however have grown to like the beach. And the water. Now I care. Because my childrens lives depend on it. My life depends on it.

It is estimated (by the Unites States Lifesaving Association) that over 100 deaths occur each year due to drowning at beaches in rip and alongshore currents. In fact, rip currents account for more than 80% of those rescues which are performed by beach lifeguards! I can only imagine the numbers that are unreported.

So what is a rip current? NOAA defines it as “a narrow channel or river of water moving away from the shore at a fast speed”. A rip current is not the same as an undertow. An undertow will pull you under the water wheras a rip current will quickly carry you away from the shore. And when I say quick, I mean super duper really fast lightning speed! They have actually been measured to range anywhere from 2-8 feet per second. That’s faster than Micheal Phelps can sprint in the water! I think. It required a lot of math. I failed math. A lot.

You’ve probably seen plenty a rip current and just weren’t aware of what it was. Or the danger that lurked inside the seemingly serene look of it. Look at the photo below. See that area where there are no visible waves? Those are rip currents (not to be confused with rip tides!).

That spot looks like the perfect place to find some relief from the waves. I might have thought it ideal for my toddler who gets frustrated with the waves splashing her.

Photo credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.


rip current
Photo credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.


rip current 3
Screenshot credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.


The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) has posted some tips on identifying rip currents below:

  • a channel of churning, choppy water
  • an area having a notable difference in water color
  • a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
  • a break in the incoming wave pattern

Interestingly enough the USLA also points out that polarized sunglasses make it easier to see the rip current clues they provided.

Knowing how to escape the “grip of the rip” is paramount. If you are ever to get caught in a rip current, remain calm and conserve your energy. Swim parallel to the shoreline until you are out of the rip current. Then swim at an angle towards the shoreline.

Keep your kiddies safe and teach them about rip currents. If they don’t yet know how to swim, consider enrolling them in the various swim classes offered throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Happy weekend ya’ll!


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