What's the number one killer at New Jersey beaches every summer?  Rip currents.  They lead the list of surf hazards for anyone of any age. Thousands are rescued each year while hundreds of others drown.

Logan Mock-Bunting, Getty Images

This week is rip current awareness week and in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the message is even more critical this year.

What are rip currents?  They are strong narrow currents moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching eight feet per second, faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint.

According to Stevens Institute of Technology Professor Dr. Jon Miller, Sandy played havoc with our shorelines, eroding our beaches and wiping out jetties. "As a result, there may be an increase in the number of rip currents this year," he said.

If caught in a rip current, remember the following:

  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Never fight against the current.
  • Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle-away from the current-toward shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

Rip Current Awareness Week arrives alongside hurricane season, and it is important to remember that storms increase the risk of dangerous surf conditions. Even storms that don't reach shore can cause strong rip currents along the beach posing dangers for swimmers.

How rip currents form (NOAA)

If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911. If possible, throw the victim something that floats, such as a life-jacket, cooler or inflatable ball and give instructions on how to escape the current.

Officials say those trying to help need to remember that many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

For more information on rip currentsclick here.