Lifeguards: Don't Panic, Swim Alongside Shoreline If You're Being Pulled To Sea

LIDO BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –– Some Long Island school children got a lifesaving lesson on how to survive deadly rip currents Thursday with beach season just over a week away.

Growing up on an island doesn’t guarantee an education in beach safety, but the Town of Hemptead is changing that, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera With More On The Story

Oceanside fifth graders got what may be the most important lesson of their lives on Thursday —  a demonstration in breaking the grip of the rip at Lido Beach.

Lifeguards went into the water and showed the kids exactly what to do in a rip tide.  There have been no drownings so far and they’d like to keep it that way.

One fifth grader said he was amazed to learn that he shouldn’t fight the tides, but swim parallel to the shore.

“Yeah, you know, I never knew that until I came over here. I probably would have swam forward and I probably would have been sucked in,” he told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

Too often, treacherous rip currents claim lives by pulling swimmers out to sea. Learning how to survive a rip current will now be a part of the school curriculum, with districts receiving beach safety brochures.

“If we were in Nebraska, it wouldn’t be such an important issue. We’re here on Long Island, we’re surrounded by water. We have to make sure our children are given the tools,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said.

Nationwide, there are about 100 rip current deaths each year and more than 20,000 rip current-related rescues.

The important lesson stressed by lifeguards and one that every Long Islander needs to know is rip currents cannot be fought or seen. If you feel yourself being pulled out to sea, lifeguards say you should swim alongside the shoreline until being released from its grip.

Lifeguards also stressed if you can’t escape the current, you should float or tread water and when all else fails, yell for help or wave for assistance.

“A rip current is something that will pull you out. You can be the best swimmer in the world — it’s gonna pull you out. The key to surviving a rip current is don’t panic,” said Andrew Healey, of the United States Lifesaving Association.

Last summer, lifeguards in Hempstead performed 2,000 rescues. Their message at the start of a new beach season: If in doubt, don’t go out.

Will you be taking extra precautions this beach season?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Watch & Listen LIVE