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Rip Current Safety

There are four important components of rip current safety. Familiarize yourself with what rips are and what they look like, and what you should do at the beach to keep yourself safe.

  • Understand what rips are, and what they are not:
    • Rips are strong currents of water that flow from the beach, through the waves, out to sea.
    • Rips can move fast and can carry even the best swimmer into deeper water.
    • Rips ARE NOT “undertows”; they will not pull you down under the water.
  • Learn to, and practice, spotting rip currents from the beach. Ask a lifeguard to help you spot rips. Although not all rips will show all these signs, here are a few clues to look for:
    • Foamy, choppy, discolored or sandy looking water flowing out to sea
    • A gap in the breaking waves as they come to shore.
  • Stop and watch the water first.
    • Just like you look both ways before you cross a street, whenever you get to the beach, you should sit down and look for rips and other hazards before you get in the water.
  • If caught in a rip, know your options to stay safe
    • Avoid swimming in a rip if possible: always swim in front of an open lifeguard tower and identify hazards before you get in the water.

          If you are in a rip float first, stay calm, and consider your options. Don’t fight the current.

          1. Try standing up; if you can stand up, walk to shore.
          2. If you are at a beach with lifeguards or you see surfers, call out and wave with one hand for help.
          3. If no one is near and you are able, swim parallel to shore or towards the breaking waves.
          4. If you are too tired to swim: stay calm, conserve your energy and focus on staying afloat.

          Rip Current Videos

          The above dye release video shows how a rip current forms, and how the water that comes to shore concentrates into a strong current that flows away from the beach through the breaking waves. If caught, float first and stay calm, don’t fight the current! Swim parallel to shore to escape.

          The above video demonstrates what a rip is and how to spot one.