Beach surf can be deceiving as officials sound alarm about rip currents

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) – Several Bay Area residents and visitors were expected to descend on local beaches for the July 4th holiday but authorities were warning revelers to be mindful of water safety.

The Golden Gate National Park Service advised the public to be aware of dangerous rip currents on Northern California beaches.

While most people were off of work to celebrate Independence Day, beach patrols were on duty, informing visitors about ocean risks like rip currents and sneaker waves.

The beach patrols have long worked at San Francisco's Ocean Beach because the area does not have traditional lifeguards.

Jonathan Abad and his friends kept a safe distance from the waves on Tuesday and played frisbee in the sand instead.

"The waves, when they come, they don’t look that powerful, but especially when they come back they feel like they’re pulling at you so you really have to stand your ground," Abad said.

There have been numerous rescues at Ocean Beach in recent years and some swimmers have drowned in the choppy waters.

The Golden Gate National Park Service said it is not a swimmer’s beach and warning signs are posted about the dangers. The agency said people have been swept out to sea in as little as 3 feet of water. It is proof that the powerful currents can be deceiving.

Statistics from the United States Lifesaving Association show there were 37 rescues at San Francisco beaches last year. Experts say swimmers should swim parallel to the shore if they are caught in a rip currents.

By KTVU reporter Cristina Rendon.