How to stay safe and avoid rip currents

Rip currents can occur on any beach where breaking waves are present. They are formed when waves push water up the beach; this water needs to find a way back out to sea and it flows back outwards through deeper channels.

  • Rip currents can travel at speeds faster than an Olympic swimmer
  • Look for discoloured/choppy water, a debris line and fewer breaking waves
  • They can travel up to 200m from shore

You can avoid rip currents by swimming between red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach.

If you do find yourself in a rip current (shown by red arrows in animation):

  • Stay calm and float
  • Raise arm/shout to attract attention
  • If possible swim parallel to shore (green arrows), not against current as you will become exhausted
  • You may need to float and assess the direction you are moving in before deciding which direction to swim in
  • Once out of the rip current, swim back into shore

If you see someone in trouble

  • Raise the alarm – dial 999 and ask for Coastguard or tell a Beach Lifeguard
  • Throw something that floats, such as a lifebuoy
  • Never enter the water to rescue someone yourself

rip currents graphic