Rip current safety

Rip current safety

Rip current safety

There are some stunning beaches located all around the world and where I live here in Australia going to the beach is a pastime that lots of people enjoy on a regular basis. Do you live near the beach? If you do you will know what I mean. Surfing and body surfing are popular forms of exercise and common throughout the summer periods seeing up to 5000 people at once at a single beach alone.

Beaches such as Bondi and Kirra can be a lifesavers worst nightmare over these popular periods with many rescues taking place many times in a single day. Rip current safety should be something everyone should know about when entering the water at their favorite beach stretces all around the world

Lots of overseas traveler’s die by drowning all across Australian beaches every year.

In Australia, someone dies in a rip every 2-3 days on average. Most of the thousands of rescues that take place are related to rips. It takes only a minute to drown so its very important that we can spot a rip.

When we travel to the beach for a swim, the best place to do this is between the flags. These flags are red and yellow and are located close to the shore line. These flagged zones are patrolled by experienced life guards. They look and help swimmers to stay safe when swimming. When swimming between the flags, it will take a lot of the guess work out of finding a rip as the life guards have already located the safe swimming zones

Out of the 11,000 beaches that located in Australia, only 3% are patrolled by surf life savers. Australia has many beaches that are not patrolled, swimming at these beaches could be dangerous in the wrong conditions.

When surf scientists study rips they do so by using a colored dye method. They pour the colored dye into different area’s along the beach to discover how the rips are behaving. The dye will take the path of the rip and travel out to the back of the breaking waves. This allows the scientists to study exactly how rips work and pass this knowledge down to surf lifesavers. Most lifesavers however are experienced swimmers and surfers, having been swimming at beaches from a very early age.

Rips are not

  • A undertow. There’s no such thing as an undertow and a rip cannot pull you under. You have air in your lungs and you will stay buoyant in a rip if you do not panic
  • There’s no such thing as a rip tide. Rips are not tides but are currents that flow steady out to the back of the breaking waves, then finish just beyond the break
  • They won’t carry you to New Zealand or other parts of the world

Rips are strong narrow currents that flow from the shoreline, between the breaking waves and off shore. A rip is formed by all the breaking water that is being pushed in by all the breaking waves. All this water needs to go somewhere, so it follows a path in the deeper water back out off shore.

studying where the rips are from the beach is easy. Typically, they are located in either the middle of the beach or at either end of the beach. If the beach is a large stretch of coast line, there may be many fixed rips located at intervals along the beach

The best way to discover where the rip is located is to ask a beach life guard. However, if you are swimming at a non patrolled beach the best way is to look where the shallow breaking waves are and what’s the color of the water. Breaking waves will only break in shallow water and that would indicate that they are breaking on a sand bar. If the water is a deep green or dark blue color that has a very choppy surface, this would indicate a rip and you must avoid this.

Large breaking waves will break in deeper water and the sand bar could be located in deeper water, however all rips and waves behave in the same way despite the size of the surf.

Do’s when stuck in a rip

  • Most importantly don’t panic. A rip will run out to the back of the breaking waves, so if anything, swim with the current and towards the sandbar. If surfers are out the back of the breaking surf swim towards them and ask for assistance
  • Raise your hand if you are at a patrolled beach. Lifesavers are always scanning the swimmers from the beach and tower.
  • Don’t try to swim against a rip as most rips will flow faster than what a person can swim.

Always check where the rips are from a headland, if this is possible. This is an old trick that surfers use when checking where to surf. Surfers use these rips on occasions to help them reach the back of the waves faster, so rips can prove to be helpful in these circumstances. Checking the surf from higher areas will help you see where the darker water (rips) are forming

Not all rips are the same

Most rips are what’s called a fixed rip. These are when there are no shifting sand banks and the rip is almost a permanent fixture on the beach. However, these sand banks can change overnight due to bad weather etc. These fixed rips can last for days, weeks and even months.

There’s another type of rip that called a flash rip. This is where a large amount of water pours into the beach with a high amount of breaking water. These waves are called set waves and are larger than the other waves that are breaking. You might get 3-5 set waves in a group that push huge amounts of water into the beach. This water quickly wants to escape and does so by rushing back out to sea through the deeper water.

Other rips that form are headland rips. These are usually consistent features on the beach and are located on the points of the beach or headlands. These headlands have a rocky sandy bottom and rarely change in behaviour

The beach is fun but we need to stay safe

If you are planning on swimming at the beach, stay between the flags. Even if you are an experienced swimmer as this will help others that are not so much experienced follow the directions of swimming between the flags. If you are swimming at a non patrolled beach only do so if you are experienced and know all the do’s and dont’s of beach safety

Hope you have enjoyed my post on beach safety. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will endeavor to get back to you ASAP

Stay safe




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