Tauk Safe Surf
by Bob Miller
Are you thinking, what does that mean …? Good, you’re thinking and that alone may save your life some day … imagine that, being able to make a good choice in what may be a life threatening situation … Does that have your attention ? Okay then …
Can I ask y’all a question …? Again … great … your brain is working. So, when you are out in the ocean surfing, what are you in the most danger from …? Rip currents, rocks, lightening bolts, or the infamous ‘man in the grey suit’ 😉 … nope … it’s you !!!
With all do respect it is most likely your own board that will hit you if you’re not careful, so going back to the article I wrote last spring … hold onto that thing. Your board is your responsibility, where it goes and any damage it causes can be quite serious at times.
Anyhow, this is not just about holding onto your board, although y’all ought to, but it’s about keeping your cool and remaining calm when challenged by the ocean. So there are some simple things that, for nearly thirty years, I’ve been sharing with kids as young as six. Things like the saying ‘think before you sink.’
Thinking about being safe in the ocean is something that crosses my mind every time I ever go surfing. It’s not so much about fear of the ocean but respect for the ocean as an incredibly powerful place. Remembering … the real danger is yourself and choices that you yourself make. So let’s make good choices surfing out there this summer.
There ARE real dangers in the ocean and things like rip currents have kept the people from some cultures from enjoying what fun surfing can be. Their fear exists and is legitimate but it’s really only there because people didn’t have the opportunity to learn to swim or are not exposed to information about these dangerous currents like the way our town provides rip current signs.
We’ve all seen this rip current sign but do any of us know physics that is behind the rip …?The way the waves reflect … or bounce back off the beach or an object such as the jetty @Ditch and look for the easiest path back out to sea. In the impact zone, of the crashing waves, this path is difficult so the water will travel along the shore looking for a hole in the sand bar.
When the energy finds the hole in the sand bar it heads out into deeper water where it spreads out loses its powerful pull. But why is it so strong … well, that is because the energy of all the waves up and down the beach are combined together in this narrow river of returning water we call a rip current.
This fast moving current of water with all its energy digs the channel between sand bars deeper and when an unexpected swimmer or non-swimmer reaches this part of the ocean they often can no longer touch he bottom, simply because it is deeper and not because of an undertow !!!
There is actually no such thing as an undertow. There is no magical force pulling anyone under. The water is just deeper and the current may be taking you far out to sea, but this is where I’ll ask you ‘think so you don’t sink’ and remember this great article you had read in the On Montauk mag.
I’d like you to think about what I’m about to say. Remember my little voice if you ever get in this situation and just chill. There are some studies that say the natural circular cycle of the water will actually bring you back to the beach if you do nothing but keep calm.
That said, there is also the option of swimming parallel to the shore or on an angle back to the beach, and this will work for most people but please be aware of which direction you’re swimming (again thinking) and don’t swim against the long shore current either.
Anyway, we as surfers, on the other hand, absolutely love love love rip currents. They are something that should be respected and appreciated but not feared. A rip current is surfing’s version of a chair lift and is often the easiest way through the breaking waves.
When I go down to the beach one of the first things I look for are big waves, because they get my heart thumping, but then I look for the rip currents that I’ll use to make it easier for me to get outside those breaking waves and I jump right into them, again with respect.
It is this respect that I have for the ocean that I’d ask y’all to share with me. I’d also like to ask that y’all ‘think before you sink’ and keep safety in your mind at the beach surfing this summer. And again with all do respect, you are the most dangerous thing out there.
So choose to be safe, please. Hold your board, cover your head, be aware of your surroundings, respect the rip currents, know your limits and know how to get help if you need it … those big orange signs at every beach help a 911 operator know where you’re @ and say hello to summer.