If you’ve ever stood by a river and watched the water go by, you’ll already have an idea what a rip current is like. Rip currents act in much the same way as a river - they’re the ‘rivers of the sea’.
A rip current is the result of water that has come to shore in waves, returning back out to sea. Water from the waves is funneled into a deeper channel in the seafloor that has been created by the narrow water current flowing out to sea and moving a lot of the sand out with it.Because waves break in shallow water, you get water coming to the shore in shallow parts of the beach, and returning to sea in the deeper parts.
HOW TO AVOID A RIP CURRENTPatrolled Beach:
The easiest way to avoid a rip current is to always swim between the red and yellow flags on a beach patrolled by lifeguards. Lifeguards place the flags on the shallow sand bars on the beach, which is where the waves are breaking.Unpatrolled Beach:
Spotting rip currents is hard for the untrained eye. It's often easier to recognise the safest spot.
1. To recognise the safest spot: Take an extended period of time from an elevated position to look for consistently breaking waves on shallow sand bars.
2. To recognise a rip current: Take an extended period of time from an elevated position to look for:
- Groups of surfers. Surfers use rip currents to help them get through and behind the waves faster. They will be paddling out in the rip currents.
- Calmer patches of water where waves may be breaking consistently on either side.
- Darker, greener water, as this indicates deeper water.
- White or foamy water that is moving away from the shore.
Remember ‘white is nice – green is mean’.TOP TIPS IF YOU'RE CAUGHT IN A RIP CURRENT
Most people caught in rip currents aren’t aware they’re in one in the first place. You’ll probably just start to feel like you’re out of your depth. Here are our Top 10 Tips, in logical order:
1. The first thing you should do is STAY CALM. It’s the first and hardest thing to do but it will save your life.
2. Attempt to stand up. Many people try so hard to stay above the water that they forget they might even be able to stand up.
3. Don’t attempt to swim directly back to shore. Even though this is the most direct route, it’s against the current and therefore the hardest and the fastest way to tire you out.
4. Maintain your head above water. Do this by floating or gently treading water. Rip currents won’t pull you under the water.
5. While floating, raise your hand to attract the attention of nearby surfers or lifeguards who can come to your assistance.
6. Rip currents disperse behind the breaking waves. If you continue to float with the rip current, it will only take you as far as the last breaking wave.
7. While in deep water, you can choose to remain floating and wait for assistance, or you can make your way towards the breaking waves and return to shore using the waves to assist you.
8. Because rip currents are narrow and sit between two sand bars, the water in the rip current may circulate you close to the shallow sand bar. If you find yourself in the wave zone try to stand up on the sand bar.
9. Alternatively, you may be able to make your way to the sand bar by using a swimming stroke that keeps your head above water.10. If you find yourself standing on a sand bar, walk towards the shore, but away from the rip current you’ve come from. Remain on your feet at all times
DEBUNKING THE STANWELL PARK 'COLLAPSING SAND BANK' MYTH
Following the recent drowning death at Stanwell Park, the media widely incorrectly reported it was the result of a ‘sand bank collapsing’, sending the people standing on it into a rip current which dragged them out to sea.
In fact, sand banks don’t collapse.
What happened at Stanwell Park was most likely the result of a ‘flash rip’. Flash rips are created when a larger set (group) of waves than usual inundate the sand banks and quickly raise the level of water over the sand bank. For those people standing on the sand bank, this would have meant they were lifted off their feet. The excess water brought in by these larger waves would have then washed sideways into the rip current channels and rushed out to sea with greater force than usual – taking all the people floating with it.
In this situation the best advice is to ride out the flash rip and wait until the waves return to normal before waiting for assistance or attempting to return to shore.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who have lost their lives at sea this summer.LEARNING MORE ABOUT RIP CURRENTS - THE OCEANFIT WAY
Although you've learnt a bit about rip currents here, chances are you’re still confused right? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. At OceanFit, we teach people about rip currents by getting them on the beach and showing them firsthand how to spot them. Then we swim in them. Yes, that’s right! The best way to understand a rip current is to swim in one and feel what it’s like to be in one for yourself.If you want to be ocean confident, you need to be ocean fit. For ocean awareness, confidence and fitness join an OceanFit program today. For more info and program details, go to the OceanFit website.