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Swimmers hit Long Island beaches, but threat of rip currents remains

A man enjoys the water at Jones Beach

A man enjoys the water at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. Photo Credit: Uli Seit

It was business as usual Saturday for beachgoers around Long Island after rip currents last weekend led to the death of a swimmer in Long Beach.

Most people aren't worried about the risk of rip currents -- but they should be, said James Jones, a Hempstead lifeguard who was surfing at Long Beach on his day off yesterday.

Swimmers treat the ocean like a pool, when it's more like a conveyor belt -- always moving in and rushing out, he said. "They're told to swim where the lifeguards are, but they disobey the rules and then things happen," Jones said.

On Aug. 1, Kashawn Carlos, 23, of Brooklyn, died after he and his friend got caught in a strong rip current in the waters near the Allegria Hotel, Long Beach police said.

The men had been warned of the rip currents and told to leave the water, but returned after the lifeguards had left, according to police.

The day before, Suffolk County police rescued two men off Fire Island who also were caught in a rip current. Rip currents are fast-moving, underwater channels that can sweep up even the strongest swimmers and carry them hundreds of yards out to sea.

When rip currents are strong enough at Long Beach, swimmers are only permitted to venture out to knee- or waist-high waters, officials at the Long Beach Lifeguard Patrol said.

Lifeguard Tim Foxen, on duty Saturday at Jones Beach, where modest rip currents swept east to west, said he looks for a brown coloration in breaking waves to identify rip currents, because that's where a concentration of water is building up and moving through channels of sand.

David Tavitian of Garden City, who swims at Jones Beach once or twice a month, admitted he didn't know what to do if caught in a rip current. "I try not to go out too far," he said.

When in a rip current, the National Weather Service recommends swimming parallel to the coastline, since most rip currents are very narrow. Swimming against current will only lead to exhaustion, experts said, since it is generally too strong even for professional swimmers. "Swim where the lifeguards are," Jones said, "and you'll be fine."


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