Derrynane beach is one of Kerry’s great swimming and walking beaches. I walked it recently with my son Owen, who was once a life guard during a spell in Australia. Owen explained as we were walking the dangers of rip currents on beaches and how people get drowned so quickly when they try to swim against the current. He showed me a section of the beach in Derrynane where a rip current was clearly visible.
There are two main beaches in Derrynane. One is a safe beach for swimming on the westerly side towards the harbour area where in summer months lifeguard Niall Hogan and his colleagues are on duty between certain hours.
On the easterly side basically between the ship house and Daniel O Connell’s house there is a beach where people are advised not to swim because there is a danger of severe rip currents.
As you walk from Daniel O Connells house to the beach you will see this sign warning people not to swim. Take heed!
On the left of the photo shown below is the very dangerous bit of beach where you can clearly see the rip current.
I took this second photo just to the left of the rocks shown in the first photo and if you look closely to the right of this photo you will see that on this bit of the sea there are no waves breaking whereas if you look left you can see the waves. On the right hand side too you can see lines of what looks like calm water but is in fact a very dangerous rip current bringing the wave water back out to sea.
Waves come in circular movements and the water that comes in with each wave must find a way back out as well and it is often rocks or manmade structures that create a funnel for the water to exit back out again.
People drown because, when they are caught in a rip current, the natural reaction is to try to swim against it back to shore. For most swimmers this is an impossibility as they don’t make any progress against the current and in fact they find they are being swept bit by bit out to sea. Naturally they then panic and if not rescued swiftly will probably drown.
This is where a little knowledge and a very clear head is necessary and where it is absolutely vital to go with the flow. Rip currents get weaker as they move from the shore and in many situations they might only last for 100 metres or less. According to the experts the only thing to do is to allow yourself to float gently with the current and as the rip current weakens swim gentle parallel to the shore until out of the current and then swim back in with the waves.
When in doubt just don’t go swimming in the sea.
Ted Dwyer Family Business
PS. After work yesterday I met up with a friend of mine John Leahy. We were both doing our weekly exercise slot at John Dillon’s gym in Douglas. John Leahy sometimes reads my blogs and I told him I had just finished this week’s one on rip currents.
John was really interested in this and told me his story. Last week he was on holiday in Dingle and went swimming in the wonderful beach at Couneenole on Slea Head where some of the film Ryan’s Daughter was shot. Couneenole Beach is renowned at times for having very dangerous currents. John was swimming and floating in the water when he looked to shore and found he was way out further than he should have been. He then tried to swim in and found that he was making no progress.
He said with difficulty he tried to keep a cool head as he realised he was in a rip current. Bit by bit he managed to swim out of it and made his way back to shore. He was lucky but he kind of knew what he had to do and that that probably saved him.
Lucky too that he is obviously in great physical shape!