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Beach Safety and Rip Current Tips from Charleston County Parks
5/9/2014 12:42:00 PM

As the summer season approaches, now is the time to learn about water safety. Before entering the water at any of our local beaches throughout the Lowcountry, all beach-goers should familiarize themselves with rip currents and learn what to do if they get caught in one.

Rip currents are channels of water that flow out into the ocean. They can be very strong and move very fast – up to 8 miles an hour. Rips pull people away from shore, but will not pull a person under. They may be narrow, or up to over 100 yards wide. An estimated 80% of all surf rescues are due to rip currents.

What Does a Rip Current Look Like?
• Churning, choppy water
• Different water color
• Foam or seaweed moving seaward
• Break in the wave pattern

What To Do If You Get Caught In a Rip Current:
• Don’t panic
• Do not try to swim against the current
• Swim along the shoreline to get out of the rip
• Swim back to the shore diagonally (away from the rip)
• Wave for help if you are in trouble

Other beach safety tips:
• Learn to swim or stay out of the water
• Swim with a buddy and near a lifeguard
• Enter water feet first
• Watch your children
• Always obey the posted signs and flags on the beach and at the lifeguard stands
• Use sunscreen and drink water

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) provides lifeguards at the county beach parks and at the Folly Beach Fishing Pier in an effort to reduce the number of beach accidents. The agency employs around 60 lifeguards to keep the county beach parks safe at Isle of Palms, Folly Beach County Park, the Folly Beach Fishing Pier, and Kiawah Beachwalker Park. Nevertheless, an informed public is essential to maintaining adequate levels of beach and water safety, particularly in the non-lifeguarded areas of Charleston County.

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission recommends swimming under the watch of our ocean lifeguards. CCPRC has been a certified lifeguard agency with the United States Lifesaving Association, South Atlantic Region, since 1994. Each of our ocean rescue lifeguards are certified to the level of a South Carolina Department of Transportation Emergency Medical Responder or higher. Currently, lifeguards are on duty at our beach parks (Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Beachwalker) on weekends only from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Beginning on Memorial Day (May 26), the beach parks will have lifeguards on duty every day through mid-August.

For more information on rip currents and how to spot them, visit or For more beach safety tips from your county parks, visit

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