Swimmers warned about rip currents

May 30, 2010 3:38:18 PM PDT
Swimmers looking to head into the ocean are warned to be wary of rip currents. "Those of us who have been coming know the water, tread lightly, be careful and understand what's going on here," said Donna Sweeney, a beachgoer.

Donna Sweeney has been coming to the stretch of Rockaway Beach near 13th street for more than 3 decades.

She's seen countless lifeguards rush from their perches and head to the water to rescue swimmers in trouble.

Most of the time it's newcomers that need help, because they are totally unaware of just how dangerous this channel can be.

"It looks so peaceful so it can be deceiving when you first look at it because there are no waves," Sweeney said.

In the spot where the bay meets the ocean, there are rip currents.

They are narrow fast moving belts of water that move offshore and can travel 1 to 2 feet per second.

More than 80% of water rescues on surf beaches like these are due to rip currents.

In the narrow corridor, there's another hidden danger, about 50 feet out, there's a sudden drop.

Lifeguards are now officially on duty along the city's 14 mile stretch of beach front, which is not the case at Long Beach.

Last week, 19-year-old Emanuel Tiburcio and his friends went swimming.

The college student never made to back to shore, and rescue crews searched for Tiburcio for more than an hour.

His body finally washed ashore three days later.

Louis Harris, a surfer, says conditions in the water can change in less than 15 seconds.

"You have to be like really professional and know how to swim because it can take you out there," Harris said.

Another surfer, Ralton Lewis, calls them sneak sets and said that on Sunday, the ocean was full of them.

"Maybe you have your back to the ocean and turn around and there's the water right in front of you," Lewis said.