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How to spot and stay safe in a rip


The calmest part of the ocean at the beach is likely the most dangerous.

That’s the message from Hunter Surf Lifesaving President Henry Scruton.

While these spots may look like an inviting place to take a dip, in many cases it is the location of a rip pulling water back out to sea.

“Believe it or not a rip is usually in the calm part of the ocean,” Mr Scruton said.   

“All the waves roll in and you see the beautiful white water all the way up to the sand and it just keeps rolling in and in and in but eventually it has to find a way to go back out, so it creates a channel for the water.

“[So] the part that looks calm, a section that might not have as many white waves on it and looks to be a little bit sandy within the water is actually the rip current going back out.”

With rips being one of the greatest and most common hazards on Australian beaches, Mr Scruton wants the community to make safe choices when they swim in the ocean.

On average, these currents are responsible for at least 21 fatal drownings in the country each year.

Since 2004, they have contributed to 25% of coastal drowning deaths.

Key signs of a rip include deeper or darker water, fewer breaking waves, sandy coloured water, debris or seaweed and significant water movement.

Surf Life Saving Australia urges swimmers to be think before they get in the water by stopping to check for rips, looking for other dangers and then making a plan about how to stay safe.


Mr Scruton added it was important to not panic or swim against the current if you become caught in a rip.

“If you don’t panic and stay calm for long enough, the rip will virtually spit you out at the end,” he said.

“And then you can come back down the side of it, find a wave and catch one in rather than swimming into the rip.”

For more information about rips, go to the Surf Life Saving Australia website.

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