Rip Currents / Rip Tides

Rip Currents, also known as rip tides are fast moving channels of water traveling away from the shore. They can be dangerous to swimmers so it is important to know how to recognise a rip current and also how to escape one.

What causes Rip Currents?



Rip currents will often occur on beaches where there are sandbars or man made or natural structures such as slipways, piers or rock formations. As the waves crash towards the shoreline, they need to travel back out to sea again – this happens naturally as the water recedes. However, if the water builds up due to becoming trapped it will travel along the shoreline instead until it finds a way back out to the ocean therefore causing the rip current.

The illustration on the left shows the water coming into shore and then the water (feeder) travelling along the beach and back out through the narrow gap (Neck) causing the rip current.

How to Spot a Rip Tide


Rip currents can be spotted by looking out for the following:

  • Fewer waves
  • Deeper, darker water
  • Seaweed, foam or debris being carried out to sea
  • A channel of choppier water
  • A change in the pattern of the waves rolling into the shore

These images show rip currents….



How to Escape from a Rip Current


If you get caught in a rip current it will carry you out to sea.

DO NOT TRY AND SWIM AGAINST A RIP CURRENT and don’t panic as once you have reached the head of the rip current the flow of water will slow down.

To escape from a rip current you need to swim out of the current by swimming parallel to the shore.  Once you are out of the current it will then be easy to get back to the shore.

If you are in any doubt, it is always advisable to swim at a beach with lifeguards.


If you think that somebody is in difficulty please

call 999 and ask for the Coastguard


Back to Coastal Safety

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