A Timely Water Safety Message From the NSRI

www.MyPE.co.za: Rip
currents are the greatest cause of drowning in South Africa along the
coast but it should also be highlighted that more people drown in
swimming pools than they do in the sea and hence safety around swimming
pools is equally as important as safety at sea.

A rip current is a water channel formed, at different places constantly
along the coast throughout the day, enabling the water reaching the
shore to be dispersed back out to sea. In effect it is a river formed
by the incoming surf that needs to get
back out to sea and hence rip-currents head out to sea against the
incoming surf.

If you are caught in a rip current you will suddenly realize that you
are being swept out to sea despite your best efforts to swim towards

  • Don’t panic.
  • Stay afloat by kicking your legs and moving your arms in
    circular movements.
  • Don’t try to swim against the current it will only cause
    you to become exhausted.
  • Wave your arm and shout (scream) for help – to alert people
    on shore to call the NSRI or to alert the lifeguards.
  • The further out to sea you are swept the slower the
    rip-current gets as it disperses itself into the ocean.
  • At your first opportunity swim parallel to the beach line
    in order to get yourself free of the rip.
  • Once free of the rip gently swim towards shore using the
    incoming waves to aid your progress.

Bathers should try to go to beaches where and when lifeguards are
on-duty and obey the instructions of the lifeguards. The lifeguards
post a safe swimming demarcated area, using red and yellow flags, at
the beaches they are protecting. These safe demarcated swimming areas
change depending on where the rip-currents are detected throughout the
day – in order to avoid the rip-currents.

Not only at beaches but also around any water, swimming pools and dams,
children should always have responsible adult supervision.

Anglers fishing from rocks should wear life jackets and not venture too
close to the shore-line and be aware that they could be swept off rocks
by waves.

  • Spring Tides present a dire threat to bathers.
  • Spring Tides begin just past the half way mark to a waxing
    moon until just past the half way mark to a waning moon and happen
    twice a month at Full Moon and again at No Moon.
  • Spring Tides grow in strength as the moon gets fuller (and
    towards No Moon) and are strongest during the Full Moon and strongest
    again at No Moon.
  • Spring Tides bring a higher than normal high tide and a
    lower than
    normal low tide and thus result in the strongest rip-currents to be
    experienced during the month.
  • Spring Tide Rip-Currents are so strong that people wading
    ankle deep in
    water on the beach are known to have been swept off their feet and
    swept out to sea.

As the high tide turns is the most dangerous moment that bathers can
face especially if they are not aware of this phenomenon but even
during the build-up to the Spring Tide and the winding down period
presents a grave risk to bathers of being swept out to sea.

Avoid consumption of alcohol at all times in and around water. Alcohol
dulls the senses and saps vital energy for bathers who get into
difficulty in water.

The Shark Working Group, in conjunction with The City of Cape
issued a statement last week warning of increased shark activity closer
in-shore at this time of year.

While sharks are present in the ocean throughout the year this
increased shark activity inshore is documented by research which shows
that sharks natural feeding habits lead to a migration closer in-shore
in search of food at this time of year.

Sharks are thought to be territorial and are known to use their bite as
a sensor to investigating objects and life forms in the water as a
possible food source.

Beach and ocean users are urged to exercise caution and to be aware of
this phenomenon.

wish all ocean users a safe summer and we urge people living
along the coast and going to the coast to learn the direct Sea Rescue
Emergency phone number specific to the area they are living in or

Have the greatest respect for the ocean and enjoy safely.

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