Water Conditions and Warings
The Gulf of Mexico is often a very calm body of water along the St. Joseph Peninsula, however it can also be very dangerous under certain conditions....even for the very best swimmers. Be sure to check the Beach Warning Flags located at the north and south fire stations on the Cape each day before going in the water. When in doubt stay out.
You can see the current water conditions and any warnings for Cape San Blas here.
As longshore currents move on and off the beach, “rip currents” may form around low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as jetties and piers. A rip current, sometimes incorrectly called a rip tide, is a localized current that flows away from the shoreline toward the ocean, perpendicular or at an acute angle to the shoreline. It usually breaks up not far from shore and is generally not more than 25 meters (80 feet) wide.
Rip currents typically reach speeds of 1 to 2 feet per second. However, some rip currents have been measured at 8 feet per second—faster than any Olympic swimmer ever recorded (NOAA, 2005b). If wave activity is slight, several low rip currents can form, in various sizes and velocities. But in heavier wave action, fewer, more concentrated rip currents can form.
It is a misconception that rip currents occur only on bad weather days. This is not correct and rip currents can occur on sunny days when the waves are only 2-3 feet high. rip currents are not related to the weather but rather to the waves, tides, and shape of the bottom.
Rip currents typically occur a low tide when waves are breaking near a significant sand bar with a channel.
How to Escape A Rip Current
The very best thing to do if you get caught in a rip current is to stay calm. The current will not pull you under. It will just pull you out from the shore. Call and wave for help. Don't swim back to shore. That will tire you out. Swim out of the rip parallel to the shore along the beach and then follow breaking waves back to shore at an angle.
Here is a great video from NOAA demonstrating how to free yourself or another swimmer from a rip current