Gulf Shores lifeguards offer life-saving advice for beachgoers

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:49 PM CST
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GULF SHORES, Ala. (WSFA) - Rip currents are the number one weather-related killer at the beaches along the Gulf Coast. Rip currents can move up to 8 feet per second; that’s faster than an Olympic swimmer. Waves do not have to be huge for rip currents to form.

“We always encourage people to heed the beach warning flags,“ Joethan Phillips, Gulf Shores Beach Safety Chief, said.

Phillips says you should know and understand the beach flag system. Yellow flags represent moderate hazards. Red flags mean high surf and strong currents. You should also know how to escape a rip current.

Phillips says if you get caught in a rip current, do not panic.

”First off, do not panic, let it take you out. Then, once you feel it stopped pulling you, swim parallel to the shore and then swim in once you feel that you’re out of the current,” he said

Last season, lifeguards rescued 235 people in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores; 105 were due to rip currents.

”A lot of people will think that they’re good swimmers. They think they’ll swim out, then they’ll get out there and they won’t be able to get back in and we’ll have to go assist,” said Phillips.

Phillips advises only swim in areas where life guards are present, know how to swim, never swim alone and if in doubt, don’t go out.

“Even though it may look calm out here in the gulf, it’s a lot different than a pool,” he said.

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