5 tips to recognise a rip at the beach this summer

4 January 2017

Swimming at the beach is easily a favourite summer time activity, but what happens when the sea starts to change and suddenly you find yourself amidst a rip? It sure can be pretty scary. Below we have five tips to help you recognise a rip and how to get yourself safely out of one.

What is a rip current?

A rip current is a body of water moving out to sea and is usually noticeable by a foamy and rippled appearance, discoloured water and debris floating toward the sea. Rips are complex, they can quickly change shape and location and at times are difficult to spot. Rip currents are the biggest threat to life on Australian Beaches causing more drownings than any other factor. They are a danger to all beachgoers.

How do I spot a rip?

Look out for deeper, darker coloured water, fewer breaking waves, a rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters and anything floating out to sea. However, rips don't always show all of these signs at once making it harder to identify.

What are the different types of rip currents?

Fixed rip - can stay in the same place for days, weeks, even months.

Permanent rip - is mostly found up against the headlands or reefs and they flow out to sea.

Flash rip - They happen when there is a sudden set of large waves which will come in and lift the water level. It causes all that water that has come in to exit rapidly. This often means that swimmers that were comfortable in the water are suddenly caught out of their depth.

Mega rip ­- caused in stormy conditions when there are really big waves.

Why are they dangerous?

Rip currents are most dangerous to those who don't know how they work and what to do when they are caught in one. Rip currents can be anywhere between 10 to 20 metres wide and have been known to flow as far as 400m out to sea. They move fastest when the tide is running from high to low, and can move as quickly as three metres a second. They can move a lot faster than most people can swim.


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How do I get myself out of a rip current?

It is important to stay calm and consider your options. Raise an arm to seek help and/or try floating with the current as in some cases it will bring you back to the shore. You can also swim parallel to the shore or towards breaking waves and use them to help you in. If one of these options is not working for you, try a different one until you are rescued.

Beach safety is important for everyone and it is essential that you and your family always swim between the red and yellow flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Lifesavers. If you think you can see a rip, don't risk it. Wait until it is gone, to prevent being caught in unexpected waters. To check patrol times and conditions at your local beach and learn more about rip current safety and how to spot rips currents visit www.beachsafe.org.au or download the beachsafe app.


If you're thinking about enrolling your child in swimming and/or surf lifesaving lessons, click here to find out more about locations and availability.