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A photo of Amy and Ryan Fritz.

NWS National Cooperative Observer Program Manager, Amy Fritz, and her husband, Ryan, heroically saved a young boy from a rip current while vacationing in North Carolina in August 2020. Both trained in open water rescue, Amy and Ryan knew they had to act quickly once they noticed the child drifting out to sea.

From shore, Amy kept constant eye contact with the boy while Ryan swiftly grabbed his 8-foot surfboard and headed toward him. Ryan was then able to safely bring the child to shore and reunite him with his mother.

While many are enjoying family vacations on the beach, we caught up with Amy and Ryan to discuss the rip current rescue, beach safety, and the importance of checking the forecast before going to the beach.

The NWS had forecast a moderate to high chance of rip currents in the area that day. Did that heighten your situational awareness in the water?

Amy: Absolutely. Due to the forecast, I was on high alert and warned all of my friends and family to be very careful at the beach that day. I knew that it was a dangerous day to be in the water, especially for little swimmers, so I made sure that all of the children in my group had on a life jacket.

Ryan: When it is stormy and windy, people typically get excited to surf and boogie board, but days like that -- and ANY day when the NWS forecasts a moderate or high chance of rip currents -- people should be especially cautious when entering the water.

Luckily, you are both trained in open water rescue and were able to safely get the young boy to safety. If someone spots a person caught in a rip current and they are not trained, what should they do?

Amy: Get the attention of a lifeguard or beach patrol. If no one is nearby, dial 9-1-1. Do not put yourself or others at risk by attempting a rescue for the first time with no training. If you are trained, it is not advisable to attempt a rescue without a sturdy flotation device that can support the weight of two people, or you would be putting yourself at risk.

[Editor’s note: If you feel you must enter the water to save someone who is caught in a rip current, stay safe and know your options.]

What should a person do if they are caught in a rip current?

Amy: Stay calm. If you can, swim parallel to the shore using your legs to propel you forward. If you can’t escape the rip current, roll onto your back and float until the rip current subsides.

[Editor’s note: check out NOAA’s rip current survival guide to learn what rip currents are and how to escape them.]

Do you have any water safety tips for beachgoers this summer?

Amy: One lesser known hazard to look out for are dangerous shorebreaks, which occur when a wave crashes directly on the shore. People need to be really careful when shorebreaks are present because it can cause injuries and potentially be deadly. If you see a strong shorebreak, choose somewhere else to go in the water — or better yet, don’t enter the water at all. And lastly, always wear a lifejacket. It could save your life.

For additional information on beach hazards and how to protect yourself, visit Check out this video for additional tips.