Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. Panicked swimmers often try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore-putting themselves at risk of drowning because of fatigue.
Are you wave safe?
- Always respect the power of the ocean.
- Choose guarded beaches when possible.
- Check your local weather and tides, observe conditions before entering water and throughout the day.
- When entering the water, turn knees and hips sideways to help keep your balance.
- Duck under waves, do not dive.
- Never turn your back on the waves.
- Keep children within arms reach and never take your eyes off of them.
- Protect yourself before helping others.
- What are rip currents?
Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. They typically form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as jetties and piers. These currents are commonly found on all surf beaches, including Great Lakes beaches. Learn more about rip currents.
- Why are rip currents dangerous?
Rip currents pull people away from shore. Their speed can vary from moment to moment and can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the surf. They can sweep the strongest swimmer away from shore.
- How do I know if a rip current is present?
You can identify a rip current if you see:
- A narrow gap of darker, seemingly calmer water between areas of breaking waves and whitewater.
- A channel of churning, choppy water.
- A difference in watercolor.
- A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving seaward.
- What do I do if I'm caught in a rip current?
- Relax, rip currents don't pull you under.
- Don't swim against the current.
- Follow the shoreline. You may be able to escape by swimming out of the current in a direction following the shoreline, or toward breaking waves, then at an angle toward the beach.
You may be able to escape by floating or treading water if the current circulates back toward shore. If you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself. If you need help, yell and wave for assistance.
- How do I help someone else?
Don't become a victim while trying to help someone else! Many people have died trying to rescue rip current victims.
- Get help from a lifeguard.
- If a lifeguard is not present, call 911, then try to direct the victim to swim following the shoreline to escape.
- If possible, throw the victim something that floats.
- Never enter the water without a flotation device.
- Where can I get more information?
Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. When you arrive at the beach, ask lifeguards (if available) about rip currents and other hazards. More information about rip currents can be found at the following websites: