Currents of water are deceptively strong and can pull you under or carry you long distances downstream. They are also nearly impossible to swim against. Let’s take a look at common risks associated with currents in rivers and near shore lines as well as how you can escape them without wasting a lot of precious energy.
River currents are the biggest challenge that you will face when deciding whether or not to cross from one side to the other. They also pose a risk if you lose your balance or fall off of a raft while traveling downstream. If you get swept away, you will need to contend with a range of hazards that include trees, rocks and other debris that you can smash into as you are being carried away. However, you need to focus on getting to either side of the river more than trying to avoid coming into contact with these items.
The general rule of thumb is to swim along the current while aiming your body toward the shoreline. Choose the side of the river that has the fewest obstructions and smoothest flow of water as opposed to the side that is closer in order to minimize the chances of getting injured. Swimming perpendicular to the current will move you to the side of the river while you are traveling downstream. Remember that the force of the current will keep propelling you forward, but you will also be getting closer to the bank at the same time.
Don’t focus on the land that is right in front of your eyes. You will never be able to catch it, and you can easily become disoriented. It’s better to look at a spot that you think you can reach further downstream. Allow the current to carry you while you swim and try to reach the target. Aim for outcroppings, branches or downed trees that jut into the river from the shore. You can grab them or use them to block you from traveling further downstream, and then you can pull yourself ashore. However, don’t get discouraged if you miss your target. It is very common to need a few different attempts before you are successful.
Rip currents are commonly found near beaches and shorelines, and they pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. They can be identified by their choppy, foamy or swirling appearance that is inconsistent with the general pattern of surrounding waves. They generally flow in a direction that is perpendicular to the shore out to deeper waters beyond where waves form and break.
Don’t try to swim directly back to shore if you get caught in a rip current. All you will do is waste energy and run the risk of drowning. The easiest and most effective way to get out of a rip current is to swim out of it by going to the left or right at an angle that is parallel to the beach. Once you are out of the current, you can swim back to shore or let the waves carry you.
Remember that currents are channels of water that are very difficult to swim against. The best way to escape is to swim across them until you reach the shore or calmer waters. Don’t waste precious energy by trying to fight the flow of currents. Don’t panic, keep your focus on the target and realize that you will escape if you swim in the right direction.