Ocean near Bali

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It isn’t only about Bali.

The same can happen to you anywhere.

Ocean is powerful, and there are a few things you definitely need to know to enjoy it safely. I thought I know all of that. I thought I’m an experienced ocean swimmer. I had also been swimming in Bali a lot. And then I got into situation, when I couldn’t get out of the ocean myself. I was saved by a surfer.

All of these things may seem difficult.

So I’ll keep it as simple as possible.

These currents can move faster than Olympic swimmers in the water.

If It Looks Calm, It’s Potentially Very Dangerous

That’s the single most important thing to understand.

If there are waves on the beach, then the most calm places often are the most dangerous. Because of rip currents.

Waves are pushing water to the coast.

Currents are taking water back to the ocean.

If you get into the current, you’ll be taken out to the ocean.

Here is one example. The place where I almost lost my life. Green Bowl Beach in Bali.

Rip current in Bali

On both sides there are waves. So you may assume that it’s the best to go swimming between the waves. But it’s not.

It’s very dangerous there.

In many of these places current is so strong, that you simply can’t swim back to the coast.

Currents Are Your Biggest Enemy, Not Waves

It’s potentially very dangerous to go swimming in waves.

Often times because of the currents, not the waves. Because waves you can see, currents – often not.

If there are no waves, it’s safe.

If there are waves breaking, be extra cautious. If there are waves, there are also rip currents. Pay attention to where are you going into the water. Let someone know for how long are you planning to be in the ocean. And constantly follow your location, to make sure you aren’t being taken to the “dangerous part of the beach”.

These currents can move faster than Olympic swimmers in the water.

A boat from Ao Nang to Railay beach

How To Get Out of Rip Current

First of all, don’t panic.

I know it’s difficult. It’s freakin scary. I’ve been in a situation like this. It felt hopeless.

But it’s the most important thing – don’t panic.

The longer you stay afloat, the bigger are your chances of getting out or being rescued. Don’t give up.

Currents are different. Beaches are different. Hence there is no one method that works 100% of the time.

Here are 2 of the most widely recommended methods.

1. Try Swimming Parallel to the Shore

In any direction.

To get out of the current, and swim back to the shore.

That’s what most of people recommend.

Sometimes it works only in one direction. Other times it doesn’t work at all, either you’re too tired or the current is too wide and ocean rough. Then there is the second option.

2. Try to Float with the Current

Sometimes rip currents have circular pattern.

And if you simply float with the current, you may be taken back to the beach. Or to the breaking waves, which can help you get back to the coast.

In any case you will not be dragged into the ocean forever.

To get out or be saved, you need to stay afloat.

Rip Currents in Bali: My Story

There were two of us.

We went to swim in waves, and didn’t notice being taken away to another part of the beach.

For almost an hour we tried to get out of the water. We couldn’t. In an hour we had made zero progress. It was a very scary feeling. Almost complete hopelessness.

So without talking about it we had changed our strategy.

To staying calm and keeping alive for as long as possible.

Hoping that someone would notice us or our absence.

And then a surfer came. He dragged us two out of the ocean.

It didn’t come easy.

He too had to change his strategy twice.

So all 3 of us could make it out of the water.

Big waves in Bali

Swimming in Bali: Tips

If there are waves breaking, be extra cautious.

Learn about rip currents before swimming in the ocean. It can be a VERY SCARY thing if you don’t understand how it works.

Let someone know for how long are you going into the water. Use waterproof watch to track time.

If there are waves, don’t go swimming in places where there are no other people around.

Safe travels!