Last Friday, we took a day trip to Nags Head. We staked our beach claim near Jeanette’s Pier close to the lifeguard stand. It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low- to mid-80s and a breeze off the ocean. Being close to the lifeguard station, we found ourselves in the midst of constant activity. Flying from the lifeguard stands were yellow flags that stated “Dangerous Currents.”
The red four-wheelers that were used by the mobile lifeguards had a safety message on the back that read: “If in doubt, don’t go out.” There were crowds of people on this particular piece of beach, but I did not care.
We took a walk down the beach. It seemed that people did not seem to care that a number of shark attacks had occurred up and down the North Carolina coast because the ocean was full of people. It was a very relaxing walk. As we were walking back, we noticed a group of people who looked to be way out there. Keep in mind, the surf was up and coming from a couple of directions. Fun for boogey-boarders and surfers, but water that looked like it could have rip currents.
We noticed that one of the lifeguards on a four-wheeler that had stopped and was talking to a lady on the beach. We then saw her talk on her radio, put a strap over her shoulder with the orange buoy that lifeguards are famous for, put on her flippers and begin to swim to this group of five to six people. A guy who was there went out with her. The two of them made it to the group and the lifeguard began to work her way in, with people in tow. A few minutes later, another four-wheeler showed up with an ocean rescue supervisor. I saw the first lifeguard raise her hand, and the second lifeguard entered the water and swam to the group. The supervisor stood on the four-wheeler and gave hand signals. The two lifeguards and the gentleman who went out originally brought the whole group in. When they got to the break, one of the women had to be dragged out of the surf. We firmly believe that, if it had not been for those lifeguards and the one good Samaritan, one or two people in that group may have drowned.
As many times as we have been to the beach over the years, this was the first time that we had ever witnessed an ocean rescue by lifeguards. This incident had a great outcome because people were swimming in an area covered by lifeguards and the lifeguards were prepared to do their job. It was kind of funny: we had a lady walk up to us and ask, “What are y’all looking at, a shark attack?” It really was not an off-the-wall question, in light of this year’s attacks. We said, “No, just watching people being rescued out of what must have been a rip current.” She said, “Oh, OK,” and went about her business.
When we got back to our canopy, we ate some fruit we had picked up from Morris’s Farm Market. The next thing you know, the lifeguards converged on a tent sitting right next to the lifeguard stand. I was not nosy enough to walk over and figure out what was going on, but shortly after we heard an ambulance coming, and then we saw medics walking over the dunes. Nobody was transported in either one of these incidents, but it was definitely a happening place.
Since many of you will visit the beach before this summer is over, I want to reiterate the sign on the back of those four-wheelers: “If in doubt, don’t go out.” I recently saw a statistic that said that 30 to 40 people are attacked by sharks each year, but 30,000 people will have to be rescued from rip currents. The odds of being pulled offshore by a rip tide is both probable and possible. If caught in a rip current, do not fight it. You need to swim parallel to the beach, until you get out of the rip. Do not exceed your limitations. Do not let your long-awaited vacation turn in the nightmare of all nightmares.