I and my kids got caught in a rip tide in Mazatlan, no signs at all. It was ugly, big brown waves and the rip prevented us from swimming back to the beach. I remembered the tactic of swimming parallel to the beach to get out of the rip. We did that but got nowhere because we were swimming against the prevailing current that was always in that location. Finally, my son said we should body surf the waves. We did that and when we got back to the beach, I kissed the sand. My younger daughter said, as she was the last one in, "What was the big deal?" She had stayed calm and just treaded water but did body surf back to the beach.
After that lesson, whenever we went swimming at a new beach, we always sat on the sand and assessed what the conditions were, first thing, looking for rips, rocks, and prevailing currents.
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