There is a reason why Florida is one of the top vacation spots in the United States, other than just Mickey Mouse, and that is the number of fantastic beaches that dot the state. There is nothing quite like a day soaking up the sun, sea and sand in Florida, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t know a little about the area you are visiting. The waters around those great beaches in Florida are renowned for their rip currents and undertow currents that can pull swimmers out into the Gulf of Mexico. A rip current is a narrow current created by sandbars. These currents can quickly pull even the strongest swimmers out into the gulf, and far from shore.

Before you decide to swim in the water, there are a few tips that you should follow that might just end up saving your life. The first is pretty obvious, yet is one that very few beachgoers ever pay attention to. Every beach has a list of safety tips posted on a sign at the official public entrances to the beach. Take a moment to actually stop and read that sign before you pick a spot that gets the most sun. The signs are there for a good reason, so pay attention.

While some of the best beaches are those that are off the beaten path, you are much safer sticking to the public beaches that are patrolled by a lifeguard. You may not know what to do if a rip current pulls you out from the shoreline, but they will. Lifeguards are trained to react in those types of situations and are often the only thing that stands between life and death. Putting yourself on a beach that has lifeguards on duty increases the chances of you walking away to tell the story should you experience any problems in the water.

If you have taken to a beach where there are no lifeguards and you find yourself being pulled out to sea by a rip current, there is a simple tip that could save your life. It is a natural reaction to try and swim towards shore when you start to feel that first twinge of danger, but you are actually better served by swimming parallel to the shore. Rip currents are narrow, usually only 50 feet wide. Using that technique will mean that you will eventually be freed from the rip current, at which point you can start heading in to shore.

As fun as splashing around in the ocean is, there are dangers to beware of and precautions to take. If you want to get out on the water, but are concerned about those famous Florida currents, try going over water rather than under it. Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is a great way to relax on the ocean. Think about taking some lessons with an experienced paddle board company on your next Florida visit. It may just be the start of a love affair that lasts a lifetime.