Riptide Warnings at Big Bend Beaches

Red flags are up at many nearby beaches. Still, that hasn't stopped some visitors from swimming in unpredictable waters. On St. George Island Monday the water was rough, yet many folks were still waist deep in it. Park officials say that's ok as long as they're strong swimmers.

With summer season upon us many are flocking to the beach, a place to cool off and have fun, but the good times could be cut short if swimmers don't take caution signs seriously.

“I'm lifeguard and so are my friends, we don't worry about it. I've never thought about it,” says Marie McCollum.

For Marie and her friends, the thought of riptides are not frightening. In fact, they know just what to do if they're caught in one.

“When get in one you swim with the current and towards the beach,” says high school lifeguard, Drew Stockstill.

For a strong swimmer it's a piece of cake, but if you ask some who've rode a riptide, it can also be frightening.

“It's rough, a lifeguard had to help me and I'm pretty big guy, so if I can't get out a lot of people couldn't,” says Daniel Lynch.

Riptide experts say the problem lies in the force of the current. Riptides form when a current is created by water receding from the shoreline. It makes its way back into the sea and along the way gains strength as it squeezes through breaks in a sandbar.

When swimmers get caught up in the current they can be carried down a channel of water for 50 to 100 yards until the current dissipates. At this point, experts say the best thing to do is keep your composure.

Once again experts say to get out of a riptide, ride the current and swim parallel to the shore.

Miller says most people run into trouble with riptides when they lose control psychologically. St. George Island park officials say the weather service warns them ahead of time when riptides will likely form then they tell all visitors as they enter the park.