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The most important thing is not to panic.Even the best swimmer cannot swim again a rip current but you can easily swim out of even the strongest rip current by swimming parallel to the shore until you feel the pull diminishing. If you do not know how to swim you should float and wave for help until someone comes for you. Rips will not pull you under although people believed they were undertows. They will only pull you out.They often look like calm water because the waves are not breaking in them. The color of the water is often darker because of the sand that is carried in it. The currents are actually just water that has to find the easiest way back out to sea. Before you go in the water at any beach you should always try to identify where the currents are, your life may depend on it.

Each year hundreds of ocean bathers suffer serious near drowning or death due to their ignorance about rip currents, a phenomenon found on wave-swept beaches all over the world  including Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, a rip current is called corriente de resaca. Ironically, rip currents can be fun if properly understood, yet they are responsible for 80% of ocean drownings, or four out of five. Surfers usually use them to get out to their surf spots. Water safety expert Don Melton defined rip currents as a surplus of water put ashore by waves, that finds and rushes through a channel to drain back to the sea to reach equilibrium. All rip currents have three parts: the feeder current, the neck, and the head. Waves bring surplus water that propel the feeder current, which accelerates through a neck formed by a shallow exit channel on the beach bottom, and which then dissipates and dies in the head beyond the surf. The feeder current is water moving parallel to the beach. You know youre in one when you notice, after a few minutes, that your friends on the beach seem to have moved 30 to 50 yards, yet you thought you were standing still. At a depression in the ocean floor, the feeder current turns out to sea. This can occur in knee to waist deep water, where the neck begins. The neck, which has very swift water called a rip current, can carry a swimmer out from the beach at three to six miles per hour, faster than a strong swimmers rate of two to four miles per hour. Its like being in a river, and can move a person 100 yards in just a moment, and is typical to experience panic when caught in the neck . It is here that most drownings occur. The rip current loses its strength just beyond the breakers, dissipating its energy and eventually delivering the swimmer to relatively calm waters. This area, know and the head, may appear to have a mushroom shape from the air, which is caused when the rip current passes the neck, slows down and spreads out. Here the water is relatively deep, but calm. The swimmer can return to land by first moving parallel to the beach away from the neck, and then back to shore at a 45 degree angle, rather than straight in, to avoid getting caught in the feeder current again. As a safety precaution for unguarded beaches, before you even go into the water, you should throw a buoyant object like a coconut or a stick into the water and watch where the current carries it, for this is the direction you will have to go to get back to shore if you are caught in a rip current. There is definitely one direction that is better than the other. The weak swimmer should call for help as soon as he notices that a current is moving him and making it difficult for him to walk in towards the land. Most drowning victims are caught in water just above waist level. When a person realizes he cant walk directly in, he should turn and walk sideways, leaping towards the beach with every wave, to let the water push him towards the shore. However, if a person gets caught in a rip current and is no longer able to touch bottom, he should not fight against the current in a vain effort to get back to shore, for this is like swimming up a river and will quickly sap his strength. Instead, the person should float with the rip current until it slows down and disperses. Floating conserves energy. Everyone should learn to float because every minute that you can salvage takes you closer to safer water (though deeper) and also gives someone the opportunity to make a rescue. People dont die from floating with the rip current, they die after becoming exhausted trying to swim against it. You can also get in trouble when there is no rip current , but large surf is breaking. Theres a crashing surf that can throw you off balance and draw you out. One of the signals of someone whos in danger is one who turns his back to the crashing surf. Even small waves are powerful and big ones may contain several thousand foot pounds of energy. If you are in trouble in water over your head, swim with a wave and let it take you in even if it pounds you when it breaks. And if you are in shallow water and a big wave is going to break on you, do what the body surfers do and dive under it , dive to bottom and youll be spared most of the force. However, once off balance in large surf, a swimmer may be unable to get traction on the ocean floor and can be dragged out four or five feet with each swell into deeper water. After a few swells he may be in over his head, and it becomes even more important to float, arching his back, head back nose pointing into the air, and filling the lungs with air. If water gets into the lungs of the person in trouble, he sinks out of sight, feeding the myth of a fearsome whirlpool that pulls one down. This myth is responsible for hundreds and hundreds of deaths. Melton estimates that there have been over 300 rescues by persons who recognize swimmers caught in rip currents, but hundreds have died because people on the beach didnt come to their rescue because of the mistaken belief that the person calling for help was in a remolino (whirlpool) and that a rescuer would also be sucked under. The person drown long before people on the beach are able to find a rope. People drown at the beach because of three reason: 1) they dont know how to handle hemselves in a rip current and swim against it instead of floating with it; 2) the remolino myth makes people afraid of attempting a rescue, and 3) there are no professional lifeguards to warn people of the dangers and to rescue them if they get in serious trouble. So, you must prepare yourself and that means learning about rip currents. As long as you swim in the ocean, youre going to be caught in one sooner or later, and its critical that you know what to do when you run into one. Some other precautions are 1) weak swimmers should avoid surf swept beaches and swim instead at safer beaches like 3rd beach in Manuel Antonio; 2) inexperienced swimmers should not swim alone; 3) always be prepared to signal for help at the earliest sign of trouble; 4) look for the signs of a rip current: swirling brownish water just outside the breakers, flattened, fast moving water running out from the beach and a strong current running parallel to the beach. Of course the most important is not to panic, do not try to swim against the current, float until reaching the end and swim at a 45 degree angle towards the shore to come back in.