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NWS Rip Current Safety Program

If you would like to share a personal rip current story please contact: Tim Schott at We would especially like to hear from those who have benefited from our rip current beach signs and Break The Grip of the Rip® ! Brochure.

Real Life Story: Joshua Scurlock
blue rule

My son, Joshua Scurlock, drowned while swimming with a friend near Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. He was 19 years old. His friend helplessly watched him drown after the exhaustion of fighting the current to save his own life. I tell him every chance I get, that he did the right thing staying on the beach and getting help. Of course, he feels extremely guilty for not going back in the water to save him, something he could not physically do. Instead he did the best thing possible, yell for help.

An experienced surfer was just coming in for the day because the waves were soo rough and risked his own life to try rescue my son. It took everything within him to pull his body up onto his surfboard and maneuver his way back up to shore. When they reached the beach, he began CPR; however, it was only seconds before paramedics arrived. I don't really know how long my son was in the water but I can imagine the difficulty the surfer experienced while fighting the current to reach him. He had already drowned when he reached his lifeless body. I thank God everyday for that surfer. He brought my son's body back to me. He could have been washed out to sea and I would not have had the chance to bring him home for a proper burial.

Josh grew up in Indiana and we frequently visited Florida, as many other Hoosiers do. I moved Josh to his "paradise" apartment in Cape Canaveral, FL, on September 1, 2004. Josh died November 13, 2004. He was fulfilling his dream, living five blocks from the beach, appreciating the beauty of the ocean every day. He loved the water and he was a great swimmer. Unfortunately, living far from the ocean, he was never taught about rip currents.

I'm now trying to raise rip current awareness in my state so that know one else loses their life. I'm told over half of the deaths from rip currents are people from the Midwest. This is all the more reason to raise awareness.Everyone should know how to escape from a rip current. We teach our children what to do if caught in a tornado because we see a lot of them in the state of Indiana. Why do we not teach them about rip currents? Is it because we don't have any water here? I don't know the answer but I'm doing everything in my power to change it. If you talk to people here, they don't even know what a rip current is, much less how to save their own life if caught in one. I'm starting with the high schools around spring break time. It's the perfect opportunity to help spread awareness. All of the kids flock to the beaches during vacation. They all relate to my son's story and realize that this can happen to them.My goal is to reach the entire Midwest through our school systems.

John Lane, the heroic surfer who risked his life to bring me my son's body, gave me the gift of being able to tell my son good-bye and kiss one last time. Tell everyone you know about rip currents and their potential dangers of taking a life. Help me in raising awareness, no matter where you live. I hope noone else has to say that kind of goodbye. Dawn Scurlock

Real Life Story: Michael Johnson
blue rule

August 23, 1998, 24-year-old Michael Johnson drowned while swimming at Rehoboth Beach , DE . Michael was an active member of Boy Scout Troop 495, based at Lutheran Church of St. Andrew. Michael earned his Eagle Scout three weeks before he drowned.

After graduating from Einstein High School in 1992, he volunteered as a White House intern. He and his father loved to travel. Michael loved the beach. The weekend Michael drowned, the Johnson's were on a beach camping trip at Rehoboth Beach, DE. Rip currents developed suddenly placing several people in peril. Michael was swept away. His body washed ashore two and a half blocks from where he disappeared.

In honor of their son's memory and to help prevent what happen to their son from happening to others, Carl and Susan Johnson work closely with the Boy Scouts and the Dewey Beach Patrol educating the Scouts in water safety and rescue techniques.

Real Life Story: Kathryn T. Graham
blue rule

I was at Wrightsville Beach, NC, 7 years ago (I think) and a hurricane was blowing up the coast. It was the day before they evacuated the beach because Cape Fear was in the path of a hurricane eye. The seas were higher than normal, but still very swimmable. I grew up swimming in the ocean and am very comfortable in it. I know about rip currents and fortunately, had learned what to do if I ever got caught. One of my favorite past times in the ocean is diving under breakers and floating over swells. 

That afternoon, I dove under a wave as I have done countless times, but when I surfaced and looked back over my shoulder, I was way out from the shore. I knew immediately what had happened. I tried swimming parallel to the shore, but was still in a very strong current and began to tire quickly.

Then a wave broke over my head, and I felt the panic rising. I know that panic is one's worst enemy in the water, so I floated and treaded water for a few minutes to catch my breath and relax. I could see my family on the shore trying to spot me in the water, but the swells were too big for them to see me waving. Once when I looked out to sea to keep an eye on the swells so I wouldn't be caught unawares again, I realized that just a little further out, there were surfers.

Suddenly the light bulb went off in my head. Instead of trying to make it back to shore on my own, I turned and swam further out to where they were. I told them what had happened and asked if one of them would allow me to accompany him into shore using his board as a boogie board for both of us. Of course, one of them agreed.

It took both of us to get far enough away from the current so we could paddle back into shore. I feel very fortunate that I recognized what had happened, knew not to panic, and was able to find a solution.

Every kid who swims in the ocean should be taught this so you will have an endless supply of Real Life Story, not a list of death statistics. As for myself, I still love the ocean and swim in it every chance I get.

Real Life Story: Cecilia Lascody Aedo
blue rule

Hi. My name is Cecilia Lascody Aedo and this is my story of being caught in a rip current. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After shopping at the Ipanema art festival, I went to the beach with my sister Cory and uncle Alex. We were sunning ourselves about noontime and I went to the water to refresh myself.

I was going back to my spot on the beach but my sister decided to jump in the water and she asked me to stay with her. We jumped in the water together, diving under the first wave. It wasn't big at all, but soon after that I couldn't touch bottom. In a matter of seconds I could see my sister near shore but I realized that I was being pulled further away. I stayed very calm and thought "okay, something is wrong but I know how to swim so I can't panic." I tried to float so I wouldn't get tired but the distance between me and the shore was scary.

I never screamed for help, but my sister started screaming for me! I could see uncle Alex getting up and going to get my sister from the water, both looking at me very worried. I tried to swim toward the beach but it was hopeless, I didn't advance at all. Two guys playing beach tennis realized I was trapped in a current, jumped in the water immediately and swam to me. They grabbed my arms and got me back to shore. I was very shaky when we got there, we all were. Thanks to those guys I'm here today.

The next day, we took a tour to the tropical islands and the bus picked us up from Ipanema Beach. The guide explained that in the local native language, Ipanema means "place of bad luck." Many of the Indians that went there to fish, drowned because of the "undercurrents." It was truly amazing how I got pulled such a distance in so little time. Thank God I'm here to tell this story!

This incident occurred many years before I met my husband. Shortly after we were married he began a study of rip currents in east central Florida, not knowing anything about my brush with a rip current in Brazil years earlier!

Real Life Story: Bill Proenza
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Hi. My name is Bill Proenza and I am the Director for the Southern Region of the National Weather Service. My experience with rip currents is first hand. At the age of 11, I was swimming off the Florida Coast, near Key Biscayne, and found myself carried into deep water. I tried to swim toward shore but to no avail. After being pulled under the water once, I called for help. Fortunately, an experienced swimmer pulled me to safety. Following this event, I took lessons through the Red Cross swimming program. While the program helped me improve my swimming ability, it did not offer much insight on handling what we called "undertows" (rip currents). Nevertheless, the training did pay off two years later, when I had the chance to save a man who was trapped in a rip current, again off Florida's east coast. I noticed him struggling in the water and crying out for help. I swam behind him and managed to push him at an angle toward the shore. He told me he couldn't swim but found himself drawn into deeper and deeper water. It is my hope that you take these safety rules and the dangers of rip currents to heart. If you do so, your trips to the coast should be pleasant, enjoyable and safe for you, your family and friends.

Real Life Story: Toni Quinn
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It was early fall of 2002 and my husband and I were down for a weekend at Gulfshores Alabama with my sister and her boyfriend. It was our first afternoon there and I had seen how bad the tides were and decided not to go in the water; however my sister had another idea when she arrived. Without a care in the world and no regard to the wave action, she plunges in and took her boyfriend with her. Upon my realization she was in the water, I got to the beach in time to see her floating out and her boyfriend trying to make it to shore. I jumped in to swim out to my sister and before long, I felt the rip tide. There was no bottom left to the sea floor.

I had been in about 4 1/2 feet of water when this happened. I tried in vain to reach for my sister, who was struggling to swim towards the beach. I myself was stuck and could not swim inward. My husband pulled me from the tide and upon getting to shore, I ran for more help. It took 4 very strong young men to pull my sister in. I have never experienced something so terrifying in my life and even though I knew to swim sideways and out of the trap, my fear of drowning and of my sister drowning displaced all knowledge. I believe my sister has a healthy respect now for the water and as for me, I have never been back in. Just for the record, we are both in our early 40's and both know how to swim. This can happen to anyone and your best chance of survival is to be aware of the dangers present!

Real Life Story: Paul Mire blue rule

My wife and I were caught in a rip current in September 2000. While living in Brazil
on a work assignment with my company, a large group of friends and my wife and I decided to getaway to an isolated beach resort along the coast of Bahia. For the most of the morning we were content laying out on the beach and watching the others trying to surf and play in the ocean. We did notice that the surf was particularly rough, and that the surfers could never quite swim out past the breakers; however, as the sun kept beating down on us, we decided to try to go out and cool ourselves in the surf.

While standing in just more than knee deep water, it seems we were suddenly pulled into a quick moving rip current. From one step to just the next, we could no longer touch the ground and were quickly getting pulled out into the 3-5 foot high violent waves of the incoming tide. Our attempts to swim directly back to the shore seemed to be a waste of energy as we continued to be pulled further away from the shore. After realizing we were being swept away, my wife's immediate reaction was to clutch onto me for safety. Realizing how dangerous this was, I reassured her not to panic and to tread water. In a previous experience while fishing in the U.S. I was caught in a current and learned that you should try to swim at an angle to the shore to escape the current.

We attempted to swim parallel to the beach to get out of the current, but the repeated waves and strength of the current still kept us from getting anywhere. Eventually all we could manage to do was tread water, hope for a breath of air between the waves which would crash and tumble us around below the surface, and scream for help at the top of our lungs when we surfaced. We managed to stay afloat, but with each passing moment we thought it might be our last. After what I would estimate would be near 15 minutes struggling to stay afloat and near the point of unconsciousness, I finally felt my foot drag the bottom. Right at that moment there was a rush of our friends who had finally noticed us and came running out to pull us back to safety on the beach. I guess what happened is that we stayed afloat long enough to reach the end of the rip current. Then we essentially became like driftwood and were washed back to the beach. The only answer that my wife and I have is that it is a miracle by the grace of God that we survived and we are thankful and blessed to be alive.

There were some immediate and even delayed consequences to the incident. Being near unconscious, I was immediately rushed to a nearby medical clinic and was treated with an IV to help stabilize my fluids. Also, a few nights after the incident my wife was unable to sleep. She could not lay down or stand up without severe chest pains. The hospital results indicated that she suffered a respiratory infection most likely caused by bacteria in the water that was swallowed during our incident.

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Last Updated: May 2, 2005