Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose: August 2022

Rip Currents Awareness

We take for granted that if we know how to swim and are comfortable in the water, playing in the ocean is without risk.  Tragically the common yet dangerous phenomenon of rip currents in the sea can be fatal when caught in one without knowing how to escape.  A surfer or swimmer may be in a deadly situation when not knowing how to harness the power of the rip current and instead tries to fight against it.

Lifeguards on duty are there to spot and warn beachgoers of rip currents, and most rescues are saving those that panic and may be caught in one without realizing it.  Rip-currents are responsible for 100,000 rescues around the world and hundreds of drownings annually.  Since rip-currents do not pull you under but rather pull you out to sea, it is hard to recognize at first that there is danger.  The initial instinct is to swim to shore and right into the rip, which is counterproductive since there will be little progress.  Once a swimmer or surfer starts to struggle against the rip, panic and exhaustion can occur, a lethal combination.

Rules of the Rip 

The first move is to stay above water and call for help. Since rips are usually narrow, aim to swim to either side of the rip, parallel to the shore.  Keep an eye out for white water and waves that are breaking, which usually means shallow water where you can stand and where breaking waves push you back to the beach.  The last option is to let the rip take you out until it fades and then swim back from either side of the rip. This may feel terrifying as if you are being pulled out to sea, but the rip will eventually dissipate.


Last month Montauk lost a thirty-one-year-old swimmer that was caught in a rip in Ditch Planes, swimming after hours when life guards are off-duty.  Creating awareness and knowing how to spot a rip-current and handle being caught in one is critical especially when in the water without life guards.  The local non-profit organization East End Ocean Rescue (EEOR), donates signs to town and village beaches to educate beachgoers about rip currents.  EEOR was the first organization to donate rip current signs on Eastern Long Island, starting in 2014 at Main Beach in East Hampton. All Village Beaches in East Hampton and the Ditch Plains parking lots in Montauk have received donated signs as well as installed boxes of rip current information cards.  About three-hundred cards a week are distributed all summer.

EEOR is interested in donating and installing signs and boxes for cards at beach clubs, beaches and beach front hotels on the east end to create rip current awareness.  For more information, and for organizations interested in having rip current signs posted, please visit East End Ocean Rescue,