MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sunday was a busy day for lifeguards and ocean rescue personnel up and down the coast as people ventured into dangerous surf conditions.
Miami Beach Ocean Rescue said a combination of easterly wind and low tide around 3:30 p.m. created conditions perfect for the formation of rip currents.
Ariel Gomez said he had to have help after being caught in a rip current off Miami Beach. Gomez said he swam out too far, got a cramp and couldn’t swim back to shore.
“When I coming out I feel the water pushing me little more inside so I can’t swim no more,” said Gomez who admitted he started to panic a little.
Jose Castillo, a professional swimmer, saw Gomez in trouble. He swman out and helped Gomez until the lifeguards arrived.
“He was very tired, he needed help, he said ‘Help, help me save my life’ and I said okay no problem,” said Castillo.
Miami Beach Ocean Rescue performed more than 30 rescues on Sunday.
“We’re going in one after another, it was like firework rescues were going off,” said Ocean Rescue Lt Leigh Emerson-Smith.
Emerson-Smith said they had a lot of problems with rip currents.
“A lot of rip currents, water coming across the sand bar and racing out through channels,” said Emerson-Smith.
Despite the warnings, some people just had to take a dip.
“A little choppy in the water, I saw some people getting pulled out of there so it was fun but a little dangerous I guess,” said James Palmieri.
Red and purple flags were flying at many lifeguard towers in Miami-Dade and Broward indicating dangerous surf conditions and hazardous marine life.
The Coast Guard urges all beach goers to stay out of the water where red flags are flying.
A rip current is a narrow powerful current which runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour or faster.
Beach goers are urged, whenever possible, to swim at a lifeguard-protected beach. If unsure of what the warning flags mean, ask a lifeguard about the conditions before going in the water. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents. Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Also stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.