Learn how to survive rip currents

Rip currents are our beaches hidden danger. On any beach with waves you’ll find rip currents working like rivers of the ocean. They return water brought to the beach by waves back out to disperse behind the waves again.

How to spot a rip current

To spot a rip current take 5 minutes from an elevated position and look for patterns in the waves. Rip currents exist where there are deeper channels between shallow sand banks. Identifying features will be darker calmer water, less broken waves than on nearby sand banks or surfers using them to get out behind the waves.

How to survive a rip current

Should you find yourself out of your depth and moving away from the beach; float with the current and converse your energy. Your chance of survival increases the less you panic, so remain calm and look around and call for assistance from nearby swimmers or surfers.

To take direct action to escape a rip current aim for the shallow sand banks where the waves will be breaking, here you can use the waves to assist you towards beach until it’s shallow enough to stand up.

You can avoid rip currents by swimming between the red and yellow flags on beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

Breaking rip current myths:

  1. Rip currents don’t pull you under the water – there is no such thing as an under tow
  2. Rip currents don’t take you ‘way out to sea’ – they will disperse behind the waves
  3. Sand banks don’t collapse – large waves wash people off their feet into rip currents



The rip current won’t pull you under, so float – keeping your head above water, conserve your energy and ride the current.


Your chance of survival increases the less you panic, so remain calm, look around for assistance and think through your options.


Raise an arm and wait for assistance OR once the current has stopped, swim towards the breaking waves where the water is shallower.

You can learn more about rip currents by watching our video lesson on rip currents and you can learn how ocean swimmers use rip currents to swim efficiently through the wave zone.

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