People drown not only on deserted beaches, but also on popular beaches, 50 meters from the coast. Many people misbehave in the ocean and panic at a critical moment.
How not to drown in the ocean or open water safety
Several dozen people drown in Bali every year. Including our compatriots. Moreover, they drown not somewhere far away on deserted beaches, but in the most crowded and popular places. Literally 50 meters from the coast.
Why it happens? Why do people who know how to swim drown near the shore? And they drown regardless of age, gender and physical condition - even good athletes sometimes cannot swim out. Because they misbehave in the ocean, do not know the basics of safety and panic at a critical moment.
In this post, I will tell you about the most common ocean accidents. About reverse currents, about the so-called channels, once in which, a person is instantly carried away into the open ocean. In English, this phenomenon is called rip current.
Let's start with theory
The ocean is not a sea or a river, much less a lake with calm water. The ocean is much more complex and dangerous. The ebb and flow are created by the gravitational attraction of the Moon and the Sun on the Earth and its oceans, having a direct effect on the nature of the waves.
At low tide, you may come across rocks or reefs that were not there six hours ago. Typically, in this case, the waves become steeper and break further from the coast.
During high tides, softer, slower breaking waves are usually created. High tides can also cause backflows, which are formed when waves hit rocks or sandbanks on the coast and ricochet back out to sea.
Imagine ocean waves that roll over to the shore over and over again, bringing in more and more water. But this water mass does not remain on the shore, but returns back to the ocean. How? Through the channels that are formed as a result of the waves breaking on the shore. This is how it looks schematically:
That is, the wave breaks on the coastal shoals, and then, accumulating in a certain place, goes back into the ocean, forming a reverse current. It turns out, as if, a river in the ocean. And this is the most dangerous place on the whole beach! The speed of the current in the channel reaches 2-3 meters per second and once it gets into it, you will instantly be carried away from the coast. At this moment, most people are seized with panic, they begin to frantically fight with the current and that they have the strength to row towards the shore. And the waves cover and cover everything and having lost all strength, a person drowns.
This is the cause of more than half of all deaths in the ocean!
The most dangerous thing is that you can find yourself in such a channel, even standing up to your waist or chest-deep in water. That is, feeling confidently underneath the bottom and suddenly, once and you suddenly begin to be sucked into the ocean! So what to do if you still got into the opposite current and, despite all your efforts, you are carried into the ocean?
There are several basic rules that must be remembered and always kept in mind:
1. Don't panic
Panic is the enemy in any extreme situation. When a person panics, instead of a sober assessment of the situation and making the right decisions, he is guided by his instincts and most often does the wrong thing.
2. Save your energy
You don't have to fight the current and paddle back to shore with all your might. It's useless. It is unlikely that you have enough strength to overcome the force of the current in the channel. You need to paddle not to the shore, but sideways, that is, parallel to the shore!
3. Do not swim in the ocean alone
The golden rule is - I'm not sure, don't go! Try to swim on busy beaches, where besides you there are people and, preferably, lifeguards.
This is how the correct actions in case of hitting the reverse flow schematically look like:
There are a number of important points that you need to know and remember:
- the channel will never drag you to the bottom! The reverse flow occurs on the surface, does not form funnels or whirlpools. The channel will drag you along the surface from the coast, but not to the depth.
- the channel is not wide! Usually the channel width does not exceed 50 meters. And most often it is limited to 10-20 meters in total. That is, having swum along the coast literally 20-30 meters, you will feel that you have swum out of the channel.
- the channel length is limited! The current will weaken rather quickly, the channel ends its "work" where the waves reach their peak and begin to break. In surfer language this place is called "line up" (line up). At this point, all surfers usually hang out and try to ride the incoming waves. Usually this is no further than 100 meters from the coast.
This is how the channel looks like in real life:
That is, you see that the channel, even in the color of the water, differs from the rest of the water mass. In this case, it is sand raised by waves from the coastal shallow, which the channel carried into the ocean. The fact that sand is on the surface of the water just shows that the reverse flow is superficial and is formed only on the surface.
How to "see" a channel?
All channels have their own distinct characteristics:
- a visible channel of seething water, perpendicular to the coast;
- a break in the general structure of tidal waves (a continuous band of waves, and in the middle a 5-10-meter break);
- a coastal area with a changed water color (say, everything around is blue or green, and some area is white);
- a section of foam, some kind of marine vegetation, bubbles, which is steadily moving from the coast to the open sea.
If you see any of the above, consider yourself lucky and just don't go swimming in this place. What if you don't see any of the four signs? So you're out of luck, because 80 percent of dangerous, spontaneously emerging "channels" (flash rips) do not visually manifest themselves in any way. That is, professional rescuers will still be able to determine these places, but ordinary tourists are unlikely.
In Bali, there are lifeguards on the main tourist beaches - Kuta, Semenyak, Oberoi. In most cases, there are flags on the beaches that can change their location during the day.
The color of the flags is the same all over the world and is very easy to remember:
- A red and yellow flag indicates that there are lifeguards on the beach and that it is safe to swim between these flags.
- Red flag - swimming in this place (between the red flags) is strictly prohibited!
Sometimes you look at the ocean - the waves seem to be small, and there is a red flag on the beach. And when at this moment, you still want to climb into the ocean to swim - remember the currents and what is written here.
The author of this post has been professionally engaged in swimming for over 10 years and has the category of a master of sports in swimming. I twice got into such channels - the first time without knowing the theory, and the second time already knowing everything that is written above.
The first time it happened right in front of the most popular Potato Head, where we were having a rest with friends. There was a red flag on the beach, the waves were about 2 meters high and there was no one on the water. Confidently going to "ride the waves", I easily swam 30 meters from the shore and calmly "caught waves", dived, etc. not strong. Honestly, after 5-7 minutes of desperate struggle with the current, I really wasn't sure that this time I would be able to get ashore. With all my strength I rowed and dived to the shore, but in fact I just floundered in place. And the most interesting thing is that it was literally 30-35 meters from the coast, right opposite the beach club in which at that time there were several hundred people and everyone who was watching me (including my friends) was sure that everything was absolutely in order and I just splash in the ocean. As a result, in between the waves, I just began to dive and clinging to the bottom with my hands, “climb” to the shore with all my might. It took me 10 minutes in total to finally stand confidently on my feet at a depth of "waist-deep" and go ashore. There was absolutely no strength! I barely made it to my lounger, on which I then came to my senses for about 30 minutes.
The second time it happened on the Batubelig beach (slightly to the left of La Barca). The waves were small, about a meter in height, and my friend and I climbed to swim. At a certain moment, I felt that I was "dragged" from the shore. And quite strongly - in a couple of seconds I was 10 meters further. This time I already knew what to do - calmly, brassy swam along the coast. The channel turned out to be quite small and literally after 5 meters I swam out of it and with the incoming waves quickly returned to the shore.
The theory is great power - sometimes elementary knowledge of some basics can save your life.
Therefore, if you are flying to have a rest on the ocean (not necessarily in Bali), always remember about basic safety precautions. Tell your friends and family about it. This information is clearly not superfluous in the baggage of your knowledge.