Manatee County adding lifeguards, building new website to protect swimmers from rip currents

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The stormy weather we’ve had lately has led to some dangerous surf conditions on Manatee County beaches. In the past few weeks, many lives have been put in danger. County lifeguards are taking matters into their own hands to protect visitors this summer. 

Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman says the surf conditions have not exactly been ideal for swimming lately.

“We’ve had lots of rip currents, lots of waves, and we’ve had a lot of conditions where we’ve had to perform rescues,” said Westerman.

Rip currents happen when water quickly rushes back to the Gulf. The danger is real and can impact anyone.

Just two weeks ago, 25-year-old Joseph Teston was on Anna Maria Island with family members when he was swept out to the Gulf. Lifeguards tried to revive him, but sadly he later died.

In the past month, Manatee County lifeguards have responded to more than 30 rip current rescues, higher than normal.

“You can only fight that for so long and then your body is going to fatigue and give up,” said Westerman.

The county recognizes more needs to be done to protect swimmers. New lifeguards are being hired to cover larger areas of beach. The county is also developing a new website that will update flag conditions in real-time, instead of just twice daily as they do now.

“The Gulf and the surf is uncontrollable,” said Westerman.

Christina Allen prefers to take matters into her own hands.

“It’s rough. This is pretty rough. I’m surprised this was only a yellow flag today,” said Allen.

She and her children love the beach, so she taught them what to do.

“They stay close to shore, but should they get swept out, they know to swim parallel to the beach,” she said.

Lifeguards are helpful, but better safe than sorry.

“That’s what scares me for my kids, I just want them to be safe,” said Allen.

If you’re caught in a rip current, don’t panic, don’t fight against it. Just relax, swim parallel to shore and you can make it back. The best advice is to be aware of conditions before you go in.

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