While it seems that strong winds, excessive wave heights and higher than normal high tides are likely along the Cape coastline over the next few days, Capetonians have been cautioned to be vigilant and to avoid getting caught in rip currents. Helen Jordaan, the professional officer for the City of Cape Town explained that the most critical danger at the beach is a rip current.
She warns that the current can extend quite far out into the ocean and that it’s very difficult to swim against once you are caught in it. She says standard procedure is to encourage people caught in a rip current to let the flow take them out to sea while treading water and then to swim across to the left or right – parallel to the shore – until they are out of the current. Once you escape the current you can then swim back to shore.
She explained how to identify a potential rip current:
“If you imagine yourself standing on the beach looking out at the ocean and you see the waves breaking in front of you, a rip current would most likely be the area in the waves which is the most calm…You would think that’s the nicest place to swim, but unfortunately, the water in that deceptively calm current is flowing away from the beach. If you swim there, the current is likely to pull you away from the beach and that’s where people start to panic.”
Jordaan warned that even lifeguards and strong swimmers have died from being caught in rip currents and indicated that most drownings are related to rip currents.
She therefore urges beachgoers to swim where and when lifeguards are on duty and to only swim between their flags. The City also asks that parents or guardians not leave children unsupervised near pools and beaches.
Should you encounter an emergency, you are encouraged to contact 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a mobile. This emergency number would be able to activate any and all emergency services required.