Float, Don’t Fight By Clark Anderson
One Family’s Tragic Story Leads to Advice on How to Survive a Rip Current
Ali Joy’s husband, Austin, drowned in June 2018 in a rip current at Atlantic Beach as he swam to save the
couple’s twin daughters, age 7. It was Father’s Day and the family from Richmond, Virginia, was on vacation.
Both husband and wife rushed to rescue the girls as did four Marines and several surfers.
Ali says, “As we all struggled in the surf, waves breaking over our heads, one Marine called to me, ‘Float
on your back!’ That is what gave me hope.”
She credits the U.S. Marine’s advice with buying the time needed for others to reach her with surfboards.
Ali is now on a mission to revolutionize how people go to the beach and has created a new rip
current warning message about floating, not fighting, the current.
FLOAT-DON’T-FIGHT, ALI JOY
Have you ever noticed that rip, short for rip current or riptide, is also an age-old abbreviation for “rest in peace?”
Rip currents suck more than 100 people to their deaths every year in the U.S. Don’t go in the ocean, a river or a lake, unless you are prepared to
deal with these invisible silent rivers.
Avoiding and surviving rip tides is usually quite simple but you have to be prepared.
Some things that made this situation life-threatening included the deception of the pretty sky and water, inexperienced swimmers, panic, an
outgoing tide, no lifeguards, and an untrained rescuer leaving his float ashore.
Despite calm-looking seas and beautiful sky, even if the waves are small or flat, rips can still be present.
• Rips run faster during outgoing tides.
• Rips can occur in the ocean, gulf, along a river or even on a lake.
• Most rip currents flow so fast that not even an Olympic swimmer can fight them.
• Rough seas form gaps in sandbars.
• Gaps make invisible underwater rivers called rip currents.
• Rips suck water out to sea and carry you with it.
Drowning is usually not loud nor easy to spot. You might wonder why someone would
not wave hands or scream for help if drowning. The answer is simple, though not so obvious.
Imagine if you were drowning. You would be scared, panicked and exhausted. You would
be using every ounce of energy to keep your head above water as you kick your feet and
wave your hands — under the water! This is called treading water or dog-paddling.
You might not yell because you are trying to keep water from flooding your mouth and
lungs! How would you wave your hands in the air when they might be the only things keep-ing
you alive by treading water? How would you scream if you could barely breathe and
were trying to keep water out of your mouth and nose?
FLIP-FLOP ALERT: Pay Attention to Changes
Incoming tides wash up the beach, soak blankets and ruin mobile phones. Do you notice a high tide when it tries to steal your flip-flops?
Pay attention in case it tries to steal your life.
Raleigh-based blogger Clark Anderson’s survival suggestions are not information based on scientific research or approved by any official organization, or this publication.
They are based on his 50 years of personal water experience and intended solely to raise awareness of rip currents. Read the story of a rescue he was involved in on North
Carolina’s Outer Banks: https://ncsupplement.com/blog/give-a-rip-don-t-drown-in-one
When you go to the beach, always take
something that floats and keep it near your
chair or blanket. You can play with it in the
water — and you might need it for a rescue.
Jumping into a rip current can actually be a
good idea for a rescuer because it speeds him
up and takes less energy to reach the drown-ing
victim. But how are you going to save one,
two or even three people without a float?
• Incoming tides may slow down a rip and make them harder to notice.
• Let a tide change alert you to changing conditions.
• If the ocean tries to steal your flip-flops, it might try to steal you too.
• Outgoing tides make rips stronger.
• Use the flip-flop alert to inspect the water’s edge.
• Is everybody still safe?
• Are the kids splashing nearby?
• Did the incoming tide make the water deeper?