The Rip at One Mile Beach

It has to be said that a hol­i­day at Anna Bay, in the Port Stephens area, ticks a lot of box­es for me… Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the apart­ment at Fish­er­mans Bay, where we were stay­ing.

Nice beach­es near­by… tick

Ocean Views… tick

Dol­phins swim­ming past… tick

Fight­er Jets… tick

Fight­er Jets? A ben­e­fit for some, and pos­si­bly an annoy­ance for oth­ers (though I can’t imag­ine how), is that that the RAAF Base Williamtown is near­by. This means that fre­quent­ly through­out the week you may see F/A-18 Hor­net Fight­er Jets or the like fly­ing past at high speed, doing manoeu­vres, and gen­er­al­ly mak­ing lots of cool jet nois­es and look­ing awe­some.

The beach­es around that area are also awe­some, and I would like to draw spe­cial atten­tion to One Mile Beach. I would also like to point out at this time that the rumours of con­vert­ing the beach name to the Met­ric Sys­tem are total­ly unfound­ed. The name “One-Point-Six Kilo­me­tre Beach” was deemed to be unpro­nounce­able and “a real­ly dumb idea” by the Port Stephens Coun­cil.

Weath­er per­mit­ting, we hit One Mile Beach at least once a day, but often two or three times. It is a great loca­tion and a clean beach with the Toma­ree Nation­al Park off to your right. In fact, there were some kind of birds of prey hov­er­ing around the cliffs which just added to the spec­ta­cle of the place.

One Mile Beach — Beau­ti­ful one day…

On our last day of swim­ming, we had the mis­for­tune of being caught in a rip. Much to our delight this sto­ry actu­al­ly has a hap­py end­ing, but it could have been a much more hor­rif­ic expe­ri­ence.

After swim­ming for about an hour, we chat­ted and decid­ed to head back in. My preg­nant wife caught the next wave safe­ly back to the sand bank, and my sis­ter-in-law and I wait­ed for the next one. The next one nev­er arrived, as the waves sud­den­ly appeared to stop break­ing. There was also a clan of teenage girls swim­ming near­by, and two of them had become sep­a­rat­ed from their friends and were par­al­lel to us. It was at this stage that I noticed that all of the peo­ple we were swim­ming near were becom­ing small­er and small­er and small­er… sim­ply because we were caught in a rip and were head­ing rapid­ly out to sea.

The friends and fam­i­ly of the teenage girls were yelling out to “swim par­al­lel to the shore” and there was a slight­ly ele­vat­ed mood of pan­ic. I also noticed at this stage that the entire beach was watch­ing the dra­ma unfold. The four of us attempt­ed to swim but we were all vis­i­bly start­ing to get short of breath.

In what to me is an unde­ter­minable length of time, a young life­guard came out on a small­er and wood­en ver­sion of one of those Bon­di Res­cue boards and grabbed the teenage girls and turned towards the beach. My sis­ter-in-law yelled some­thing that can be loose­ly trans­lat­ed as “excuse me sir, please do not for­get that there are two more peo­ple here to res­cue.”

Short­ly after a cou­ple of sur­fies came up and offered there boards for us to rest on. We took them up on the offer. In fact, I real­ly can’t thank them enough. We were helped onto a wave and glid­ed back to the sand bank.

Now, here is the impor­tant thing to acknowl­edge: We start­ed swim­ming BEFORE the flags were put up and life­guards were on patrol. In hind­sight, a real­ly sil­ly thing to do.

Just because there are oth­er peo­ple swim­ming, does not make it safe.

Just because you can touch the bot­tom, does not make it safe.

Just because you can swim, does not make it safe.

Swim­ming between the flags is the safest course of action.

I will nev­er crit­i­cise any­one for get­ting caught in a rip. That thing was total­ly invis­i­ble, crept up on us in a flash, and was a force to be reck­oned with.

There are mul­ti­ple opin­ions on what to do in a rip with the most com­mon being “swim par­al­lel to the shore” or “stay afloat and let the rip take you”. I do not know which one is cor­rect, but maybe a com­bi­na­tion of the first fol­lowed by the sec­ond – as a rip can seem to sap your swim­ming strength in a pret­ty short time.

My wife reck­ons I was in shock because I didn’t say much for the next cou­ple of hours. And it just so hap­pened that the weath­er turned bad after that, so there were no more oppor­tu­ni­ties for swim­ming.

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, I looked up One Mile Beach and came across www.beachsafe.org.au – which quotes “A pop­u­lar but poten­tial­ly haz­ardous loca­tion owing to the promi­nent and per­sis­tent rips. Best in the south between the flags. If else­where stay on the bar if attached and watch for rip holes and side cur­rents.”

The oth­er haz­ard that the beachsafe.org.au site sug­gests is sharks. Which I have to admit, I did not think about once as I was being dragged sea­ward. And what is amaz­ing about that, is that I have a severe irra­tional fear of sharks… to the point where I think about them in swim­ming pools. Sela­cho­pho­bia appears to be the term for it.

Grow­ing up in New­cas­tle and fre­quent­ing Bar Beach, New­cas­tle Beach and Red­head Beach, you think I would know bet­ter when it comes to rips.

Learn and live.

Inter­est­ing read. Yeah the place is very ‘rip­py’. I usu­al­ly end up in one every­time I go out there for a surf. Gets you fit hehe