CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As the weather warms up, families have been enjoying beautiful days in the surf out on Padre Island.
The water, however, poses a threat these days as the red flag continues to fly, serving as a warning for visitors about the strong rip currents.
For those who don't know, if you are caught in a rip current, there are a few general rules to follow:
- Don't swim against the current
- Swim out of the current, then to shore
- If you can't escape, float
- If you need help, yell or wave for assistance
"The high peak season is right around the corner," said Kiwana Denson. She is all too familiar with the dangers that can arise on an otherwise carefree day at the beach.
On April 11, 2019, her 18-year-old son, Je'Sani Smith, was swept away by a rip current on Padre Island. Although he was a great athlete and a strong swimmer, the rip current proved itself to be stronger.
Denson urges the community not to underestimate these currents, "It doesn't matter if you know how to swim. You could be the best Olympic swimmer and you could still get caught in a rip current, and if you don't know how to use certain techniques, or survival skills, it will cost you your life just like it did my son."
In her son's memory, the Je'Sani Smith Foundation was created. The foundation aims to help spread the message about the dangers of coastal hazards in hopes of saving lives.
Measures have since been taken to help educate the public, including legislation. The month of April has been designated as Beach Safety and Rip Current Awareness Month in the state of Texas.
"Hopefully with the Je'Sani Smith Act, House Resolution 46, those safety measures put in place will continue this downward trend of drownings at our beaches," added Denson.
She believes there is still work to be done, though, especially when it comes to bridging the gap on pool and ocean safety.
"When you are taught basic skills on how to swim, they don't teach you how to float in a rip current," Denson said. "From there, if you have not been taught the skill to one, calm down, float, keep your head facing the shore above the water. Some of your chances could be slim surviving the rip current."
As always, beach safety should be practiced diligently, red flag flying or not. Stay knowledgeable and take precautions to keep you and your family safe in the water.
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