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Rip currents: Friend or foe?

I run a popular community education program called The Science of the Surf that started off as monthly seminars at Tamarama Beach with a release of harmless purple dye into the rip current (hence the nickname “Dr Rip’).

It’s been 10 years since I started and I’ve now presented my talk to over 50,000 people, mostly school kids, and more than half a million people have watched my YouTube videos on rips and waves.

And it all started because as a surf scientist and a lifesaver at Tamarama, it was pretty obvious to me that most people didn’t have a clue what rip currents were and that was a wake up call for me.

I just assumed all Australians knew about rips, but the truth is, they don’t and that’s a big problem.

Rips are the biggest hazard you’ll face at any beach that has a lot of breaking waves.

Every year about 30-40 people drown in rips in Australia and about 90% of the tens of thousands of surf rescues are rip related.

Just watch a few episodes of Bondi Rescue and you’ll get the idea.

They account for more fatalities in a typical year in Australia than bushfires, floods and sharks COMBINED.

Yet how much press coverage do they get? Not much.

We have developed a very dangerous complacency about the danger of rips.

I could harp on about rips forever and if you’ve looked through the OceanFit website, you’ll see Andre harping on about them as well and that’s because they are seriously important and they are pretty much everywhere on the South-east coast of Australia.

But here’s the thing… they don’t need to be scary.

Rips are a surfers best friend.

Who wants to paddle out through the surf when a nice rip can give you a free ride out the back and you can surf all day without getting too tired?

And it’s not just surfers who can use them. Bodysurfers and ocean swimmers alike can use rips to their advantage.

Don’t be scared of rips. Learn what they are, how they work, how to spot them and how to avoid them or use them to your advantage.

Rob Brander

Rob Brander

Dr Rob Brander is a coastal geomorphologist at the UNSW in Sydney.

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