Along with fun in the sun, beach season also brings danger in the water. In one popular resort city, school children are being educated in swimming skills and drowning prevention with the Endless Pools Fastlane.
The Danger of Rip Currents
Rip currents are powerful, narrow currents of water that move away from shore. Because rip currents are strongest near the surface, they pose a danger of pulling swimmers and splashers too far out to sea.
"Rip currents can be killers," reports the United States Lifesaving Association, the nonprofit association of beach lifeguards and open-water rescuers. The organization "estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation's beaches exceeds 100. Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards."
At Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 2016's was a particularly deadly summer. Shane Riffle, COO for the area's YMCAs at the time, sadly recalled "some tragedies in our area with children, even adults, getting caught in rip currents." By the next summer, the organization was ready to take action.
Water Safety Lessons
The YMCA installed an Endless Pools Fastlane in their pool. The Fastlane delivers Endless Pools' signature swim current in almost any traditional pool. With dozens of speeds, the Fastlane current is fully adjustable for all levels; at its top speed, the Fastlane current is equal to a vigorous 1:08/100-yard pace.
"Essentially, it simulates what a rip current is like," says Michelle Krenzer, YMCA Aquatics Director, in this WBTW News video (above). "As you swim up to it," she said of the Endless Pools Fastlane, "the harder it is. If you let go, it will push you all the way out just like a rip current will."
In a separate video interview with the WMBF News team, she reported, "It's been extremely useful for us. We teach kids how to get in and out of rip currents."
Tips for Surf Safety
Rip currents often provide visual cues to help you avoid them. According to researchers at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, you can sometimes (not always) identify a rip current if you see the following:
- A channel of noticeably choppy water
- A line of sea foam, seaweed, or debris moving away from shore
- Different colored water, which is caused by sand and sediment caught in the rip current
- A gap in a wave, perpendicular to the shore, as it nears the beach
Should you get caught in a rip current, the YMCA team advises that you stay calm. A rip current will be too strong to fight; a typical rip current moves at a pace faster than an Olympic sprint swimmer!
As strong as they are, rip currents are also narrow. The recommended strategy is to swim parallel to the shore until you exit the current. You can then swim back to land or signal the nearest lifeguard.
Swim Training, Survival Training
The Endless Pools Fastlane was designed for swimmers. The adjustable current lets them swim in place, enjoying a realistic open-water feel in a traditional backyard pool. The Fastlane's recreation of real currents is what makes it suitable for rip-current simulation training too.
Like a rip current, the Fastlane current is strongest when you're nearest the wall. As you get further away from 'shore,' the current intensity, like that of a rip current, decreases. For the members of the YMCA, the Fastlane delivers a unique opportunity to practice rip-current survival skills with the peace of mind they get from their familiar, lifeguarded pool.