Rip Tide


Tide rips occur whenever waves approach a shore over a wide area but can only retreat in restricted places, forming a strong current out to sea. Even strong swimmers cannot swim against these currents directly toward shore but must swim parallel to shore until they get out of the current before heading for the beach. Waders who find their legs being pulled strongly by a current should walk parallel to shore or stand still and then move toward only when an incoming wave gives them a boost.

A strong tide rip makes this break in the surf line at Playa Hermosa, south of Jaco Any long open beach such as Jaco, Esterillos, or First Beach at Manuel frequently has these currents, often visible as a muddy area where incoming waves are much lower than elsewhere. These currents may stay in one place or may move along the shore. Their strength and location change with tide and weather. The gentle waves you played in yesterday may be treacherous today even though they only look a little higher.

Many people drown every year on these beaches, wearing themselves out trying to swim back to shore against the current. Unless you are very experienced in ocean surfing and are a strong swimmer who can swim for an hour or more, don't swim or wade more than ankle deep at these beaches. A friend wading waist deep in front of the cabinas on First Beach was knocked down and couldnt move at all toward the beach until two strong young Costa Ricans came in and dragged her out. There are very few lifeguards at beaches in Costa Rica (I've never seen one) so it's up to you to swim safely. Find a sheltered beach or cove such as Third Beach at Manuel Antonio, and don't swim alone. Atide rip at Manuel Antonio's First Beach makes this low spot in the breaking surf.

For a safe thrill, look down from a plane at a long exposed beach such as Playa Savegre which extends for miles south of Manuel Antonio Park (on your way to or from the Osa Peninsula or Golfito). Every quarter mile you will see a muddy break in the white surf line with a mushroomshaped plume of muddy water extending out several hundred yards from shore. You can see a dozen of these at one time! A person caught in one would be carried out as much as a half mile before being released to try to find a safe way back!

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