How to spot a rip current

Rips are complex, can quickly change shape and location, and at times, are difficult to see. The things 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

Rips don’t always show all of these signs at once. 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.

The above video is also available with the following subtitles: Arabic | Chinese Simplified | Chinese Traditional | Hindi | Japanese | Korean | Malay

Aerial diagram of what a rip looks like

How to survive a rip current

  • Relax – stay calm and float to conserve your energy.
  • Raise – raise your arm and attract attention from lifeguards or lifesavers.
  • Rescue – the lifeguards or lifesavers will be on their way to help you.
  • While floating, rip currents may flow in a circular pattern and return you to an adjacent sandbar
  • You may escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach, towards the breaking waves.
  • Reassess your situation. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try one of the other options until you’re rescued or return to shore.

The above video is also available with the following subtitles: Arabic | Chinese Simplified | Chinese Traditional | Hindi | Japanese | Korean | Malay

Learn more about rip currents on our Beach & Coastal Safety Resource Hub.