Last Monday turned out to be a particularly hectic day for some of the RNLI lifeguards on the North Cornwall coast. When dangerous rip currents threatened to drag swimmers out to sea at Perranporth and at Chapel Porth beaches the lifeguards had to swing into action: nearly 40 members of the public had to be rescued.
A couple of weeks ago it was the lifeguards at Bantham in South Devon and at Whitsand Bay west of Plymouth who were doing the necessary as once again swimmers found themselves in trouble.
On lifeguard patrolled beaches the advice is to stay between the red and yellow flags when entering the briny. Other areas can look perfectly innocuous such is the nature of rip currents but don't be deceived. Rip currents, more likely to happen at spring tides rather than neaps, are influenced by the nature of the sand surface below the sea. As waves come in over sandbanks for instance the backwash can be moved sideways and if there is a suitably deep channel this water can make a rapid movement away from the shore - hence the rip. Wikipedia explains what happens pretty well.
It's so easy to forget that the sea is a wild environment where conditions can change in the blink of an eye. All credit to the lifeguards who can turn to instant action mode when the need arises.