Rip Safety

Rip Safety messages and practical experience in Rip Safety make up a vital part of all Surf Educate Australia & KAOS programs. this very content that can save lives.

Below are our key points in rip Safety delivery, also attached in this page are media articles and links to Rip and Coastal research. We believe these articles will assist Australians to better understand the ocean.

Send us your feedback or any of your own rip experiences


What SEA believes is the correct approach to Rip Safety

• The key is to reduce the potential for panic by encouraging swimmers caught in rips to stay calm, stay afloat, and signal for help
• Floating is the best way to keep our heads above water for longer. The word float is generally associated with pleasant, relaxation, calmness, and energy conservation
• Any rip educational message should provide more motivation to swim between the red and yellow flags
• Rip messages should also be supported by documents, articles, videos and images


What SEA feels are misconceptions about rips and waves

• People have been told and continue to be told that rips go 'out to sea" meaning that a swimmer caught in a rip will stop at nothing to get back to the beach, including swimming against a rip until drowning occurs.

Rips go off the beach not "out to sea", approximately 90% circulate within the surf break returning swiftly to a sandbank. Only10% of rips go out past the surf break, these usually in larger unmanageable surf conditions

• People think that rips are associated with an undertow, and fear getting taken underwater.

This is not the case - rips do not drag a floating object under water

• People think that waves are dangerous and are the cause of drowning. This is also one of the reasons why victims may choose to swim in the perceived calmer water of a rip, and why they may try to swim away from the waves when rips turn onto the sandbank.

Waves are enormous amounts of water traveling into the beach, a large breaking wave can be turbulent at first, however it is difficult for most swimmers to get to this area without using a rip. Once a rip connects back into the wave area the water will push swimmers back towards the beach


To Survive a rip

• Float, do whatever you have to stay afloat
• Don't panic, don't fight the rip, allow the rip to take you in most cases to the sandbank (where the waves are breaking) where you will reach safety.
• If you are near others wave arm and yell for help, if you are alone conserve energy.
• If you decide to try and swim out of a rip, don't! instead - move with the current at an easy pace to conserve energy. Follow the rip to where the waves are breaking and once there - allow the waves to push you back to the beach, or even walk back if the sandbank is shallow.
• Make sure you follow the shallowest water back to the beach to avoid falling off the sand bank - back into the rip
• The key is to reduce the potential for panic by encouraging swimmers caught in rips to stay calm, stay afloat, and signal for help
Floating is the best way to keep our heads above water for longer. The word float is generally associated with pleasant, relaxation, calmness, and energy conservation

Why SEA thinks that the "swim parallel to the beach" message is flawed

• Swimming is not the best way to ensure a safe exit from a rip, psychologically the word swim is generally associated with - extreme use of energy, racing, fast and thoughtless movements, effort, strain, panic, if I can't swim - I'm in trouble. This leads to a decreased ability to stay afloat
• Most rip currents in Australia do not flow straight offshore. They flow at at inconsistent angles to the beach which means that a person swimming parallel to the beach may actually end up swimming against the current.
• Much of the water entering rips enters from the side, either from feeder currents along the beach or from draining off of adjacent sand bars. Swimmers may again end up swimming against the current.
• It assumes people can swim well enough to escape a rip, which is often not the case.
• It assumes people have an understanding that they are caught in a rip. Studies have shown that 60% of Australians do not know what a rip is. This does not include overseas tourists.
• It promotes people to take immediate action which may contribute to panic. Panic is the main cause of rip current drowning.

tama 2swimmers in rip

Research Links

SEA Supports this article
September 1, 2009, 3:03 pm
New Way to Beat Rip Currents: Tread Water
By John Tierney
Dr. MacMahan, an oceanography professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., found that the conventional image of a rip current is inaccurate - that it's actually not a long plume of fast-moving water running out to sea. Instead, rip currents more closely resemble whirlpools, with strong, persistent eddies that circulate throughout the surf zone, Dr. MacMahan reports in an article to be published in Marine Geology''
Articles to be presented at the 2010 International Rip Symposium

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