Watch Where You Swim!

Don’t let rip currents and undertow drag you down (literally)
BY: CALEB HOOGLAND

Although all the beaches in Los Cabos are beautiful, not all of them are swimmable. The Pacific side, where the ocean joins the Sea of Cortez, can be particularly dangerous and tourists are encouraged to stay out of the water and in their resort’s nice, calm pool. Preferably clutching your floatie.

When it comes to dangerous ocean waters, there are two main things you should watch for: rip currents and undertow. Rip currents are strong, narrow currents of water that flow away from the shore and act like a river, pulling water straight out into the open sea. (FYI, rip currents are different than rip tides, although the main difference is that rip currents occur in open water while rip tides happen in bays or lagoons.)

Rip currents can be deadly, especially for someone who gets caught in one and has no idea what’s going on. One common mistake swimmers caught in rip currents make is freaking out and attempting to swim straight to shore. This doesn’t work because the swimmer is unknowingly swimming directly against the current, which only leads to exhaustion and frustration. If caught in a rip current, the first thing to do is to stay calm and call for help. (What, you didn’t bring your cell phone? Bad planning.) Go with the flow and then attempt to swim either diagonally or parallel to the shore. This will help you get out of the current, and then you can start swimming to shore.

Since rip currents are very hard to spot from the shore, look for posted signs or flags indicating the swimming conditions. In Mexico, a green flag means the water is safe and a yellow flag means you should swim with caution. A red flag means the water is dangerous and you should swim with extreme caution (but really, it’s probably best to just stay on the beach) and a black flag means don’t even think about getting into the water.

Rip-Current-Escape-larger.jpgUndertow, the second potential hazard, is a bit more common here in Los Cabos. Undertow is caused by waves that break very close to shore and push up a lot of water onto the beach. The danger here is that many of our beaches are already very steep. Coupled with undertow, it is very easy to get knocked off your feet and pulled into the water as it washes back out into the ocean.

You’ve likely experienced undertow before, if you were standing right where the waves broke and felt a strong tug start to pull you into the ocean, only to be knocked right back onto the shore with the next crashing wave. Strong undertow can make it very difficult, or even impossible, to exit the water and is one of the main reasons you shouldn’t swim in certain areas, because you can get tired very easily trying to get out of the water.

All this being said, don’t let it keep you from enjoying the swimming, snorkeling and surfing that’s available here. Just be sure to check conditions before you head into the water. Use common sense, (we know you have some, just dig deep), and don’t enter the water if you doubt your ability to swim.   ,