Swimming Safety & Rip Currents

  • If you see red flags flying, this indicates that a rip current has been spotted, or due to the conditions in the water, a rip current is likely. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not panic, swim out of the current, parallel to the shoreline.
  • Always swim near a lifeguard. If you need assistance, wave your arms for help. You should never swim alone.
  • Do not enter the water if you do not know how to swim.

What Should I Do If…

  • …I get caught in a rip current? Stay calm and try not to panic. Don’t try to swim directly to shore; swim out of the current in a direction parallel to the shoreline and slowly work your way back to the beach at an angle.  For a great explanation on how to escape a rip current, check out the video below:

  • …I lose my child? Locate a lifeguard who will use radios to communicate a description of your child. Stay with that lifeguard; he or she is your liaison with all other rescue personnel. Send a family member back to your house, if it is within walking distance, to determine if your child is there.
    To prevent or minimize such a situation from happening, parents should discuss with their children beach safety and the importance of maintaining visual contact with one another. Make sure everyone knows where they are staying, including the house name. Put a bracelet on smaller children with all pertinent contact information.
  • …I get stung by a jelly fish? A normal reaction to a jelly fish sting is red welts and sometimes itching or stinging. Unless you are experiencing difficulty breathing or are breaking out in hives, your reaction is typical and the best thing to do is apply heat and/or ammonia to break down the proteins in the venom. Do not scrub the sting with sand; this only agitates the stingers. If you do experience any difficulty breathing or any other adverse reaction, contact a lifeguard or call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • …I see a shark? Shark sightings at the Outer Banks are extremely rare. But if you think you see a shark, DO NOT yell “SHARK!” like they do in the movies. That’s like yelling “FIRE!” in a movie theater.  You would do nothing but incite panic. In all probability, it is not a shark. It could be a ray, a dolphin, a floating piece of debris, etc. If you think you see a shark, you should locate a lifeguard and calmly relay the location of your sighting and a detailed description of what you saw. That lifeguard will contact the appropriate authorities and they will determine what action should be taken.
  • …I see red flags flying? Red flags on the beach indicate that ocean conditions are considered unsafe and the risk is too high for the average swimmer. In addition, swimming when red flags are posted is against the law, and you will be fined. Churning water can easily knock you down, and reports of broken bones are not uncommon. Rough water also produces floating debris, such as ship timbers. Adults wading in knee-deep water can be knocked down by powerful waves and dragged by rip currents on red-flag days.
    (Note: A surfer may enter the water if he/she is attached by leash to a fiberglass surf board of at least 5 feet in length and has at least one fin. Please be aware that most rental surf boards are not made of fiberglass and, therefore, do NOT meet this exception.
  • …I get caught in a backwash current? To escape this current, swim straight toward shore if you are a strong swimmer. If you are not a strong swimmer, do not panic; wait and float until the current stops, then swim in.