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Undertows and Riptides

Posted by anne on February 17, 2011, 5:08 pm, in reply to "yesterday's swim"

Undertows and Riptides

It makes sense that currents usually run parallel to shore. If they ran perpendicular to shore then they would need a source for their water or some destination. Dry land is not very good at either of these. Whenever a wave breaks, a lot of water goes into the shore. Unless this is flooding the shore, all this water is somehow returning to the ocean. There are a couple of ways it can do this: undertows and riptides.

An undertow is when the water returns to the ocean underneath the incoming waves. It can be pretty strong near shore, but shouldn't really affect anyone on the surface. A riptide channels the water into a river that runs away from the shore and perpendicular to it. It moves quickly and can quickly carry a swimmer far from shore. Naturally, the way to handle it is to get out of the riptide. Riptides may move a lot faster than any of us can swim, but they aren't very wide. So don't waste your energy fighting them; swim to the side of them and head back to shore in more friendly water.

This was NOT a classic riptide I was in yesterday. More of a very complex undertow.

Do NOT go into the Mar on a kayak, in a lancha, etc, without your life jackets no matter how calm the water may seem!


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