How to Recognize Unsafe Swimming Conditions at NJ Beaches
Many people will swim at their own risk at Jersey Shore beaches once lifeguards pack up for the season after the upcoming Labor Day holiday.
This leaves swimmers to figure out dangerous conditions on their own.
Discolored and rippled or rough water are indicators of rip currents, according to Brian Cerbone, Beachfront Supervisor for Toms River.
"Another good sign is if the waves aren't breaking in that spot, that means it's a little deeper, and it's not hitting the sand bar yet. That's probably where the water is escaping back out," said Cerbone. That escaping water becomes the rip current that can drag out a swimmer.
Each year upwards of 100 people die from rip currents on our nation's beaches, according to the United States Lifesaving Association.
Signs posted at Jersey Shore beaches demonstrate how to navigate a rip current, by swimming parallel to the beach.
"Don't try and swim back through the rip," cautioned Cerbone. He noted it's important to stay calm and continue swimming parallel to shore until you're free from the rip current. When that happens, then you can swim back in.
Rip currents account for over 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards, according to the USLA.
Cerbone said lifeguards at Toms River's ocean beaches have not had to perform any line rescues from rip currents this season. He attributed that to taking a proactive approach by stationing more guards in areas where rip currents are noticeable. He added that they have had several assists in giving swimmers a hand out of rough water.
The layout of the shoreline also plays a role in where rip currents form. Cerbone pointed out that jetties and piers also can be factors.
If you spot a swimmer in distress on an unguarded beach, Cerbone advises calling 911 first instead of trying to jump in and save that person.
"Usually what ends up happening is that person who is going to do the good Samaritan thing ends up getting in trouble themselves and now you have two victims out there," said Cerbone. He added some people have even suffered a medical condition, such as a heart attack, while trying to help.