If you're planning on hitting the beach this summer, take a look at this handy guide before you dive into the water so you know how to escape a deadly rip current. It might just save your life.
This post has been updated since its original publication.
Rip currents are strong jets of water that flow away from the shore, despite the fact waves still crash against the shore. If you get caught in one, you can get pulled away from shore at speeds of up to ten feet per second — so there may not be a an easy way to swim against it. This illustrated guide from Ted Slampyak at The Art of Manliness shows what you should do instead.
First things first, don't panic and exhaust yourself. Keep yourself afloat with eggbeater kicks, call for a lifeguard if there's one nearby, then assess your situation for what to do.
Try float with the current — it may bring you back to shore. Swim parallel to the beach (toward the braking waves) until you get out of the rip current. Some rip currents are somewhere between 20 and 30.48 metres wide, so keep going until you feel the waves pushing back toward the shore.
If you start to get tired while you swim, stop and float on your back until you regain some energy. Swimmers will usually be warned of rip currents in the area — in that case, head to the pool — but you won't always get a warning, so it's good to know how to escape one just in case.