"Be cautious of rip currents that stay close to shore" By Nicole Pilson Coastal & Marine Resources Texas A&M AgriLife Matagorda County

   Happy summer! The sun is out and lots of people are spending these hot days relaxing on the beach. 
   While the beach is a place where you leave your stress on the paved roads and let the salty breeze whisk your worries away, it is also a place where you should never let your guard down. 
   Unfortunately, tragedy has already struck at our local beaches and the ocean can be as cruel as it is beautiful.
   Rip currents. You have probably heard about them or seen signs along beaches warning you about them. 
   But what are they, where are they, and how can you escape them? 
   Rip currents top the charts as the leading hazard for beachgoers of all ages. 
   These are powerful currents of water that move away from the shore and can carry away even the strongest of swimmers. 
   They occur when a narrow, fast-moving section of water travels in an offshore direction and can have speeds up to eight feet per second which, by the way, is faster than an Olympic swimmer. 
   Rip currents tend to stay close to shore, are generally not more than 80 feet (25 meters) wide, and will usually dissolve beyond the line of breaking waves. 
   However, these currents can pull someone out hundreds of yards off shore. They form near structures like piers and jetties, and may form around low spots or breaks in sandbars. 
   If you happen to find yourself caught in a rip current, do the following: 
   1) do not panic - this will cause your breathing to become erratic and your logic to blur; 
   2) keep your head above the water - rip currents carry you away, not pull you under; 
   3) don’t fight the current - its force is stronger than you and you will exhaust yourself; 
   4) swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current and then go to shore or let the current carry you until it weakens; 
   5) if you cannot escape, float or tread water; and 
   6) if you need help and are struggling, yell or wave for assistance. 
   If you can, always swim near a lifeguard. Do not overestimate your swimming strength and definitely do not underestimate the force of a rip current. 
   For young children and weak swimmers, it’s a good idea to be outfitted with a snug-fitting life jacket - a life jacket that fits loosely can slip over your head easily in the water. 
   Do not go swimming alone or without letting someone know/watching you. 
   And if you are unsure or the water looks a little intimidating, don’t go out. 
   Pay attention to beach signs and flags and take warnings seriously - they are there to save your life, not ruin your fun. 
   The beach should be a joyous activity where you enjoy good company, the laughs of gulls, and the warm sun reinvigorating your soul. 
   I know I’m looking forward to a beach day or two this summer, and I hope you take advantage of the wonderful beaches we have so close to us - just be careful and alert. 
   I hope y’all have a great, safe summer!

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