High rip current risk issued for beaches

Red flags fly at St. Johns, Duval County beaches on first day of summer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A high rip current risk was issued Monday, the first day of summer, for St. Johns and Duval counties by the National Weather Service.

Red flags, which mean high hazard, were flying at St. Johns and Duval County beaches Monday. News4Jax spoke to Eli Phillips, a Jacksonville Beach lifeguard, about how people can keep their families safe at the beach.

"Earlier this morning, it didn't feel like a strong current. Now, just a couple (of) hours later, kids on the boogie boards were just getting swept out on the beach really fast. So we can tell the current changed and picked up a bit," Phillips said.

Phillips, who teaches advanced junior lifeguards how to overcome the rough surf, said anyone who's not a strong swimmer can still enjoy the beach. But Phillips said beachgoers have to think safety first.

"Stay in shallow water, especially if there are any conditions you are unsure of, stay together, swim with a buddy or friends," Phillips said. 

At least a dozen lifeguards are on duty at a time and usually three to five respond to water-related emergencies each day, lifeguards said. They said it's important to pay extra attention to the little ones.

"I think that's when, sometimes, people can get into trouble. When they don't realize how strong or crazy the conditions are, they just think it's going to be fun to go out there and they get into a bad spot," Phillips said. 

Beachergoer C.W. Bradford said that's why his family chose to set up next to a lifeguard Monday. 

"You've got to keep an eye on your kids. If you don't, they can drown. They had about three people yesterday that had problems, and (the lifeguards) had to go out and get them," Bradford said. 

Lifeguards said anyone who is caught in a rip current, should not panic, because that’s the worst thing to do. Instead, swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip current, and after that, swim diagonally back to shore.