THE dangers of ‘rip tides’ have been highlighted after a school headmaster recently rescued five children from dangerous waters at Freshwater West.

James Whiting a head teacher at The Acorn School, Nailsworth, had been surfing at Freshwater West when he noticed a group of children in difficulty.

His, father Graeme, said: “On the late May bank holiday, James was pulling out of the Freshwater West carpark in his van, ready to head home after a weekend surfing when he noticed a group of children bodyboarding just to the right of the infamous reef, with the tide coming in.

“Having surfed in the area for many years, James was concerned for their safety as there were no lifeguards present and this channel is notorious for developing a rip.

“There were already the tell-tale signs of a rip current in the area: a calmer body of water in an otherwise choppy sea - to the inexperienced eye, this may appear to be a good place to let your children swim due to the lack of breaking waves.

“However, this is not the case; and James recognised this, becoming increasingly concerned as the children got deeper into the water.

“Fully clothed, James and his wife [Emily] watched for a few minutes, hoping that the children would come in or someone would instruct them to move to a safe area.

“The situation escalated; as some of the children became out of their depth, their brothers, sisters and a mother attempted to help them but it was a matter of minutes before five of them were caught in the rip, out of their depth and being pulled out - two on body-boards and three swimming, and all becoming exhausted by swimming against the current.

“James, fully dressed, read the situation and quickly slipped into his wetsuit, grabbed his surfboard and ran down to the beech to help.

“He headed straight for the water whilst his wife made her way to the reef to instruct the young boy who was about to swim out to help his sister to make his way to her.

“James paddled out to the group who had become spread out and tired. They used his surfboard and the children’s bodyboards to float on and James proceeded to help the group to relax, not to panic and ensured them they are safe and he’s there to help.

“Working together, the group were now able to make progress paddling across the rip current to where James knew it would dissipate. Before long the group were able to make their way in, using the breaking waves to help them and they returned to the beach to some very relieved and grateful parents.”

Rip tides, or currents, are caused by the shape of the shoreline itself, and they may be sudden and unexpected.

If caught in a rip tide, strong swimmers should swim for shore at a 45 angle to the current.

Weak swimmers should swim at a 90 angle to the current and escape its influence - rip tides tend to affect only a small area - before making for dry land.