PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Six people — 2 children and 4 adults — were rescued when they were “sucked out” in a rip current at Cannon Beach on Saturday afternoon.

Jason Smith, the Deputy Fire Chief of Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District, told KOIN 6 News the kids were playing in waist deep water at Chapman Point when they got caught in the rip current. The adults all then went in to help the kids and were also dragged out into the ocean.

None of the people had surf boards, Smith said, and to his knowledge none had life jackets. The rescuers quickly arrived but had a large area to cover to make the rescue — “about 50 to 100 yards of distance from the first person to the last.”

“Once you break contact with the sand, you are at the mercy of the ocean.”

Cannon Beach Deputy Fire Chief Jason Smith

Four lifeguards rushed to the area along with 2 jet skis and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, he said. All 6 were safely removed from the water.

Smith said the current conditions are similar to winter conditions — that is, heavy seas, 6-8 feet surf with very high tides.

Rip currents — “essentially a river that leads back out to sea,” Smith said — can pop up anytime along any of the beaches in the region.

A rip current is “where the energy of the waves meets land and has to find some way back out,” he said.

Rip currents are always present. Smith said there are always 3 rip currents right around Haystack Rock, another at Indian Beach on the north and south side at Ecola Park, and at Chapman Point, where Saturday’s rescue took place.

The lifeguards at the beach are “only a seasonal entity,” he said. The lifeguards in the tower scan 4 miles of beach. So far this year alone, he said, lifeguards have made “about 120 preventative contacts” with people, telling them to move away from specific danger.

“If you’re coming to Cannon Beach, never turn your back on the ocean,” he said. “Our beach has a lot of energy contained in its waves.”

6 people were rescued from a rip current at Cannon Beach, September 2, 2023 (Cannon Beach Lifeguards)
6 people were rescued from a rip current at Cannon Beach, Sept. 2, 2023 (Cannon Beach Lifeguards)

Those waves are very powerful, which is why no one, especially children, should play on logs that wash up on the surf line. Beyond the rescue on Saturday, Smith said one person “got rolled over by a log in the surf line” and suffered a possible leg fracture.

He also said don’t let your children play in the water without being in arm’s reach and be aware of the tide charts.

But if you do go into the water, he said, have a wet suit and an approved USCG life vest.

“Once you break contact with the sand,” he said, “you are at the mercy of the ocean.”