With the onset of Summer, people flock to our beaches for that once a year adventure in the surf. For unaware beach goers, the surf can be a treacherous place.
This is especially so if you come from the City, or a regional country area, and again important if you come from overseas and are unfamiliar with our surf beaches on the East Coast of Australia.
Many of our beaches around Ninety Mile Beach and Lakes Entrance, vary greatly from day to day, depending on the prevailing winds and water currents. One day the shore can drop off slowly, allowing you to walk 10-20 metres out into the surf and still have your head above water.
Other days, the dropoff can be sudden, and occur only 2-4 metres into the surf. In the Ocean, once you're in over your head, you're at the mercy of the currents and your strength as a swimmer.
The usual behaviour of waves at the beach, is for them to wash everything in towards the shore. These are the waves and swells coming towards the beach. But, what comes in, must go out. All the waves that wash up onto the beach, must find the path of least resistance to go back out. And go out, they do.
Along Ninety Mile Beach, Lakes Entrance, it's a common occurrence for the water to rush back out (off the beach) in a single, concentrated channel, and we call this a "rip". The water washes up onto the beach as a wave, then turns around and rushes back out.
Looking at the image above, you can see where the water is rushing back out, by the white water (frothy). These patches of white water are indicators of where the incoming waves are turning around and going back out beyond the wave break. The white water is caused by the outgoing water meeting more incoming water (waves).
These Rips, slowly move down a beach, and often times there are 3 or 4 of them visible within a 100m stretch. They rarely stay in the same place. If you observe, you will notice them move parallel to the shore line.
Do not go in the water in the vicinity of these patches of white water. Keep to the left or right and always keep your eye on where they are shifting.
If you do find yourself being swept away from the beach in one of these outward currents, do not panic. Just relax for a moment, get your bearings, and remember the Rip usually weakens considerably once you reach the outer place where the waves are breaking off-shore. It's just a channel of water travelling fast until it's beyond the breaking waves again.
So, relax, then start swimming parallel to the shore line ... left or right, until you feel you're out of the current, and the natural wave movements will start bringing you back to shore. Of course, if there are people on the beach, you can signal to them you're in trouble.
Otherwise, always swim at the Surf Controlled beaches in Lakes Entrance - Main Beach and Eastern Beach and stay within the Flags. The area between the Flags is free of dangerous currents and Rips.
Safe swimming and enjoy our beaches.
If you're looking to come to Lakes Entrance, checkout our Accommodation at www.lakesentrance.com/stay .