To the untrained eye, a glance at the shoreline reveals no danger. But lifeguards like Patrick Brafford know how to spot signs of rip currents, which kill an average of 10 people a year in Florida.
The sand, sediment, foam and seaweed hold clues.
“Anything like that forming a channel and flowing out to sea – that is going to be an identifier that that stuff is following a current of water,” he said.
With spring breakers descending on Clearwater this week, lifeguards are warning them to keep an eye out for currents.
Brafford said beach goers overestimate their abilities and underestimate the danger. Nationally rip currents lead to 80 percent of ocean lifeguard rescues, he said. He advises beach goers to always swim in an area with a lifeguard on duty.
Last year lifeguards in Clearwater Beach made 42 rescues. Half of those were because of rip currents.
“They really don’t understand the power of Mother Nature in the water and put themselves in dangerous situations,” Brafford said.
A group of spring breakers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are keeping the advice in mind.
"On a day like today you don’t really think about it too much. Up in North Carolina we have a little bit more. I am more used to it up there," spring breaker Will Bost said.