Rips are strong, narrow channels that run out to sea. These currents can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water. They can be quite difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface.
According to the US Lifesaving Association, more than 100 people a year die as a result of getting caught in a rip current (stats only covering the US.) A common perception is that rip currents pull swimmers underwater where in reality, they’re strong, narrow currents that flow away from the beach.
There is no current that will pull you “under” the water, the reason that people go under is simply that they panic.
What You Should Do
The best thing that you can do if caught in a rip current is to stay calm. It’s not going to pull you underwater, it’s just going to pull you away from shore. If you start to panic, chances are, you will start going down.
Call out and wave for help. You want to float, and you don’t want to swim back towards the shore against the rip current because you will just tire yourself out. Instead, you should swim out of the rip, parallel to the shore, along the beach and then follow breaking waves back to the shore at an angle.
If you are tired and unable to swim out of the current, remain calm and tread water until you are able to escape. Never try to fight the current, you WON’T win.