Bathers should know Pacific is not always placid

Visitors won’t find the information in tourist publications, but Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches are dangerous.

Every year Costa Ricans and tourists fall victim to the seemingly placid Pacific. Lifeguards are found only in a few communities, and there are few signs telling visitors that danger lurks.

As A.M. Costa Rica has reported repeatedly, rip currents or rip tides are formed by wind and waves pushing water towards the shore.

Oncoming waves can push the previous backwash sideways. The water streams along the shoreline until it finds a path back to the sea.

The resulting rip current is usually located in a trench between sandbars or jetties.

A lifeguard in Dominical has reported that the entire contingent was needed to pull a bather from a rip current.

A bather standing up to the thighs in the surf can be immobilized and eventually swept out to sea.

The Pacific has been known to take three or more victims at a time when the current is right.

The national emergency commission issued a call Monday for residents and visitors to learn about the conditions of beaches before going in for a swim. If caught by a rip current, a bather should swim parallel to the coast and seek surf to bring them to shore. The big danger with rip tides is that swimmers fight against them, become tired and slip under the water, the emergency commission warned.

The commission also warned about sunburn, outdoor fires and the active volcanoes.

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