Mother ocean. Many come here to enjoy her fun waves, to cool off and snorkle around and admire her natural beauty, but unfortunately and most importantly: she is to be feared and respected. Not every beach around the island is always calm enough for casual swimming; especially this time of year. It is extremely important to take notice and proper precaution before assuming it is safe to swim on these beaches; and it’s also very necessary to know what to do if you or someone around you is caught in a dangerous rip current. Fortunately, members of the community are very concerned and quite proactive, so measures are being taken to make sure that everyone is well-informed.
Before 2010, an average of 5 people in Bocas drowned every year as a result of the treacherous rip tide currents. Under the leadership of US Embassy Warden Larry Shane, 41 vinyl signs were installed in all the windward beaches on Isla Colon and Bastimentos, along with over 100 posters in hotels and restaurants around town. Signs were updated in 2015 and in a Bocas Breeze article entitled “Signs of Life- Renewed Rip Tide Warning Signs”, Mr. Shane was proud to report that since the signs went up, not one person had drowned as a result of a Bocas riptide.
The signs have been very helpful indeed but even more helpful are the strong swimmers and helpful surfers who are aware and informed about what to do in the event someone needs help. The surfing community has been increasingly concerned as it seems like it happens almost everyday that a swimmer gets caught in a rip current and may have otherwise drowned if there wasn’t somebody knowledgeable around.
“I saved somebody 2 days ago and Scott saved somebody 4 days ago. I wish we could have lifeguards on Red Frog Beach everyday,” wrote Joan Bergmans at the time of the article, who was referring to Scott Balogh of Red Frog Bungalows. “Red Frog Bungalows is passionate about creating awareness on rip currents. Their new activity center and lounge on the beach offers a great variety of surf classes, rentals, guiding and tours but is also an info point where visitors can get informed on safety, ocean awareness and accurate surf info. Red Frog Bungalows wants their guests and visitors to be 100% safe and therefor they teamed up with the other businesses on Red Frog Beach to have their own personal lifeguard on duty. This way everybody can enjoy their holiday in a safe environment.”
Red Frog Bungalows, along with Larry Shane and Mono Loco Surf School have been instrumental in the efforts of working to create awareness and solutions to prevent losing lives to the powerful currents that grace the windier beaches of Bocas del Toro. They even employ a lifeguard on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps through more awareness in the community, it will be possible to have a lifeguard everyday on the beaches where rip current is most prevalent.
In the spirit of spreading awareness and educating the public what to do in the event of a swimmer being caught in a dangerous rip current, two “Life Saver Events” have been set where Rip Tide Rescue Training will be administered. Become a Surf Sheriff, by attending any of these 2 classes, provided by the lovely and caring people of Mono Loco Surf School and Red Frog Bungalows. The dates are the following:
Sunday February 12 in Red Frog Beach Activity Center at 3pm (Nacho Mommas Taco, Red Frog Beach, Bastimentos)
Sunday February 19 at Mono loco Surf School at 3pm (2nd Street, behind park, Isla Colon)
Kudos to Larry Shane, Jim Steele, James Kliebler, Mono Loco Surf School and Red Frog Bungalows. Good job guys and keep up the good work; you are quite literally life savers.
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