Rip drowning tragedies are not always avoidable

The drowning of a tourist off Cape St Francis beach on Thursday was indeed tragic made more so that the body was not recovered until Sunday morning when it washed up not far from where the incident the occurred. Sadly rip currents are a reality of coastlines around the world and certainly not just on our little stretch of one of the finest beached in the country.

As tragic as this incidence was, most concerning is the reaction of the public to this tragedy on social media and indeed a even comment on St Francis Today in response to our Friday article. Some posts have unfairly criticized Cape St Francis Resort without looking at all the resort does to prevent such incidences. The reality of social media is that it is all too easy to report false or uninformed information, sometimes intentionally but more often out of total ignorance of the facts.

Being resident or a guest at the resort one cannot but be aware of the huge effort the resort makes in informing residents and guests of the dangers of rip tides. Three substantial and very visible graphic notice boards are strategically placed at the entrance to the beach from the resort. These graphically illustrate the dangers in words and pictures and how to react. In addition, similar notices are placed in each of the villas that have direct access to the beach. To ensure that guests are made even more aware of the dangers of rip tides the room information books placed in every room every room,contain similar similar information and on arrival all tourists are advised and given further personal information on the dangers of swimming away from demarcated a recommended bathing areas..

The suggestion that the resort does not do enough or that it should supply lifeguards is quite ludicrous. The beach stretches some two kilometres and would be nigh impossible to monitor thus it has to be left to each individual to take necessary precaution by paying attention to information provided. There is a roughly designated bathing area near the car park entrance to the beach and it is recommended to guests that they use only this area to bathe, sadly this advice is all too often ignored. Even in season this is the only area guarded by lifeguards supplied by the municipality.

After a nice long walk along our wonderful beach it is just too inviting to wade in hip or chest deep to cool down and herein lies the real issue. People unfamiliar with swimming in our seas simply do not understand that even wading waist deep into a rip current area is not safe. All one needs do is momentarily lose one’s footing in strong rip and within seconds you are swept away.

Every notice board or document whether displayed or issued by the resort depicts that one should relax and let the rip take you out to sea for it will always release you beyond the breakers and thus allow you to make your way safely back to the reach away from the rip. Unfortunately panic sets in and bathers try and fight against the rip resulting in such tragedies. There is no safe bathing, not even paddling up to your knees in the vicinity of a rip. simply losing your footing in a rip can be fatal.  All too often, especially in season, one sees parents happily sun bathing whilst their kids frolic in the shallows.

Lifesavers, experienced surf swimmers and even surfers regularly use rip currents to their advantage as it allows them to quickly reach beyond the breakers but know how to use this advantage rather than panic.

Every one of us who use our beach to swim or just walk the dogs, should familiarise ourselves with what constitutes a rip and should, when we  see visitors bathing, even paddling near these rip areas, warn them away. We are all responsible for ensuring the safety of our visitors.

Let’s stick to facts when posting on social media for all too often irresponsible posts can do us more harm than good. Fake news is fast becoming a blight.