Texas Sea Grant sponsors rip current video design competition

May 19, 2015

By Cindie Powell

Texas high school students who design and submit the best public service videos to tell other students about the dangers of rip currents and how to be safe at the beach can win a competition now underway at Texas A&M University.

Students have until May 29 to upload their videos to YouTube and send a link to Dr. Chris Houser, Associate Professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Geography and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Geosciences, who is coordinating the competition, at chouser@tamu.edu.

“With this competition, we’re trying to educate people about the dangers of rip currents before they’re standing on the beach looking at the water,” Houser said. “Very few people may pay attention to a warning sign, but if they’re asked to actively reflect on the hazard, like this competition is asking them to do, they’re going to think about it a little more and pay attention at the beach.”

Texas A&M University’s Texas Sea Grant College Program is sponsoring the video contest and providing the prizes: $250 for first and $100 for second place. Winners will be announced at the start of Rip Current Preparedness Week June 7-13.

Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore that can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes, and most often form at low spots or breaks in sandbars and near structures like piers, jetties and groins. The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that rip currents cause more than 100 deaths on U.S. beaches each year, and they account for more than 80 percent of the surf beach rescues performed by lifeguards.

Rip currents are not always easy to identify, but signs include a channel of churning, choppy water; an area with a noticeably different water color; a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward; or a break in the pattern of incoming waves.

If caught in a rip current, don’t fight the current directly — swim out of it in a direction that follows the shoreline, then swim back to the shore once you are clear. If you can’t escape the current, float or tread water until the current stops, then swim back to shore; if you are still unable to reach shore, wave your arms and call for help. For greater safety, know how to swim, never swim alone, swim at beaches with lifeguards, and if in doubt, don’t go out.

For more information about the video design competition, go to http://texasseagrant.org/assets/uploads/resources/RipCurrentsVideoContest2.pdf. More information, including online training to help learn how to spot a rip current, is available at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov and http://www.usla.org.