OKALOOSA ISLAND — Mitchell Toups knew he had gone out too far when a wave picked him off of his feet and sucked him farther into the Gulf of Mexico.
The out-of-breath resident of Houma, Lousiana, sat down in a beach chair behind Destin West Beach and Bay Resort on Thursday after being rescued from a rip current about midday. His daughter gave him a bottle of water.
“It was bad. It scared the crap out of me,” said Toups.
A beachgoer swam out to help him, but Toups said he did not want to take him down, too, so he let go of the anonymous helper.
Okaloosa Beach Safety Lifeguard Steven McAdams was called to the scene, swam out to Toups and pulled him back to shore. Firefighter paramedics from the Okaloosa Island Fire Department treated Toups with oxygen before he was released to the care of his daughter and a friend.
Toups was swimming about 20 yards offshore, McAdams said.
Yellow flags were flying at the time of the incident, but were quickly replaced by red flags after the rescue.
“We’re just going to cut to the chase and go back to red,” said Okaloosa Beach Safety Chief Rich Huffnagle.
Lifeguards patrolling the beach Thursday used whistles to alert people who had wandered too far out to stay closer to the shore.
Huffnagle suggested that beachgoers walk into the water up to their knees, and if they feel the current pulling them, they are able to walk out of the water.
“A lot of people don’t understand this: When you’re in the water and you’re up higher than your hip, you become buoyant and you’re subject to whatever the currents are driving,” Huffnagle explained.