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How to survive in a rip

A rip is a narrow or wide, fast-moving channel of water that can pull swimmers away from the shore. Rip currents are caused by the movement of water caused by waves breaking on the shore. Water flowing back out to sea through a channel in the sand or a break in a sandbar creates a rip current.

The key signs to look for are:

  • Deeper and/or darker water

  • Fewer breaking waves

  • Sandy coloured water extending beyond the surf zone

  • Debris or seaweed

  • Significant water movement

Sometimes it can be easier to look for where the waves are breaking consistently, and then look to each side where they don’t break consistently. Those areas are rip currents.


If you are caught in a rip current, it is important to stay calm and not panic. A rip current is a narrow, fast-moving channel of water that can pull swimmers away from the shore. To escape a rip current, try the following:

  1. Swim parallel to the shore. This will help you escape the current's pull and allow you to swim back to the beach safely.

  2. Signal for help. If you are unable to swim to safety, raise your hand and shout for help. This will alert lifeguards or other beachgoers that you need assistance.

  3. Float or tread water. If you are tired, floating or treading water will help you conserve energy while you wait for help to arrive.

  4. Don't try to swim against the current. Rip currents are very strong and it is difficult to swim against them. Attempting to do so can exhaust you quickly.

  5. Be aware of your surroundings. If you know how to identify rip currents, you can avoid them and stay safe in the water.

It's important to keep in mind that swimming in a rip current can be dangerous, so if you are not a strong swimmer or are unsure of your ability to escape a rip current, it is best to avoid swimming in areas where they may occur. It's also important to follow the safety instructions of the lifeguards and other beach safety personnel.

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