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How to spot a RIP tide and stay safe this Summer

Here’s a quick guide on spotting rip currents, and what to do if you get caught in one. Stay safe this Summer!

Staying safe from rip currents, also called rip tides, is crucial for anyone planning to spend time in the ocean this summer. Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water prevalent along coastlines. They can quickly pull swimmers away from the shore.

Here’s a guide to help you enjoy the beach safely.

Learn to Identify Rip Currents

Rip currents are relatively easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Look for signs such as a channel of churning, choppy water, a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward, or a break in the incoming wave pattern.

In the diagram below, which has been shared widely on social media, you can see a small-scale photo of a rip current.

Arrows 1 & 2 show the sand bars, which commonly accompany a rip current. It’s a safer place to be that in the current itself, which is why it’s recommended that swimmers stay parallel to the shore, because you can get out of the rip and onto a sandbar.

Arrows 3 & 4 show the feeder currents – which is where the water being drawn into the rip current comes from. If you’re in a feeder current, you may be sucked into the rip and out to sea.

Arrow 5 is the actual rip current. This is where the water will be drawn out in a powerful suction current, and take anything in its path out into the deeper water.

A calm section between the waves also indicates a rip current, as shown in the main image at the top of this article.

What to do if you’re caught in a rip current

Don’t Fight the Current: If caught in a rip current, remain calm. Fighting against it can exhaust you.

Swim Parallel to Shore: To escape a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Then, swim at an angle back to the beach.

Float or Tread Water: If you can’t swim parallel to the shore, float or tread water. Rip currents are usually narrow and you’ll eventually escape its pull.

Signal for Help: If you’re unable to swim to the shore, draw attention by waving your arms and calling for help.

Swim Safely

Before heading into the water, always observe beach flags and signs. A red flag often indicates dangerous conditions.

Swimming at lifeguard patrolled beaches is always recommended. Lifeguards are trained to spot and respond to rip currents.

Avoid Swimming Alone: Use the buddy system. Swimming with a friend can increase your safety.

Stay Informed: Before heading to the beach, check the local weather and surf conditions. Be aware that rip currents are more likely in low spots or breaks in sandbars, and near structures such as piers and jetties.

Respect the Ocean: Always remember that the ocean is a powerful force. Respect its power and don’t underestimate it.

Educate Children: Teach children about rip currents and beach safety. Make sure they understand the importance of swimming near a lifeguard.

By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce your risk of being caught in a rip current and ensure a safer and more enjoyable beach experience. Remember, when in doubt, don’t go out!

For more info and to see which beaches are patrolled, head to https://www.surflifesavingsa.com.au/

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