Opinion: Key to ocean safety is not to panic

By Kim Skaalen

El Cajon resident

I have been snorkel and scuba diving on the California coast for over 30 years, with most of these dives made off La Jolla Shores when I was teaching scuba diving. I also was a docent at Scripps Institution of Oceanogrpahy in the ‘70s.

During these dives have seen several “rip” currents and been caught in a number of undertows. I also have a degree in marine zoology from San Diego State. With all of the research diving that went along with this degree, I have seen, and learned, how to handle these problems. Here are some tips that will help you learn to never, ever panic when in the ocean.

Undertow is large waves breaking on the victim, causing him to be forced to the bottom. Cure: First and foremost do not panic. If you can remember this rule, the chances of getting to shore will be very good. First, crouch on the bottom like a bullfrog, then when the waves go by, jump up and take a deep breath. Then go under the next wave and the next until the surge has pushed you all the way back into the beach and safety.

Rip current is a strong current flowing seaward at a very strong velocity. This occurrence may be seen by noting a stream of brackish water flowing seaward. If the swimmer is caught in a rip, he must go with the flow, letting the strong current take him out to sea until the power diminishes. After this, the swimmer can swim parallel to the beach a few hundred meters of so. By doing this simple technique, the swimmer can easily swim into the safety of the beach.

As in the case of the undertow, the wise swimmer should never, ever panic.



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