What are rip currents?

As breaking waves push water to shore, the water will travel back out to sea at a point of least resistance forming a “rip current” – a narrow, river like current, flowing away from shore through the surf line, past breaking waves.The key ingredient to the formation of rip currents is breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves and the bigger the waves, the bigger the rip currents.

rip current image

Types of Rip currents


  Why are rip currents dangerous?

    • Rip currents pull people away from shore.
    • Rip current speeds can vary from moment to moment and can quickly increase to become dangerous.
    • Rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.




How do I know if a rip current is present?

  • A channel of churning, choppy water.
  • A difference in water color.
  • A line of foam moving seaward.
  • A break in the incoming wave pattern.


rip current photo
rip current diagram

     What if I am caught in a rip current?

    • Remain calm
    • Tread water and float
    • If you have a bodyboard or surfboard stay on it
    • Get the attention of a Lifeguard or a bystander who can inform a Lifeguard
    • If you feel like you are able to self-rescue, swim parallel to shore first to get out of the rip current before swimming in to shore
    • Do not try to swim against the current.



What are some safety tips?

  • Learn how to swim at your local pool before swimming at the beach.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Always swim near an open lifeguard station.
  • Check in with the nearest lifeguard for information regarding the ocean conditions
  • Surf, bodyboard, or swim with in you abilities. Know your limits


lg photo

How do I help someone else?

  • Do not become a victim while trying to help someone else! Many people have died in efforts to rescue rip current victims.
  • Get help from a lifeguard.
  • If a lifeguard is not present, yell instructions on how to escape.
  • If possible, throw the rip current victim something that floats.

Call 9-1-1 for further assistance.


Panicked swimmers often try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore—putting themselves at risk of drowning because of fatigue. The vast majority of rescues made by lifeguards are a result of rip currents. In fact, rip currents are the leading hazard to beach goers