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Rip Current

Rip currents are large amounts of water at the shoreline that rush in a narrow path back to the sea. When wave conditions, shape of the offshore beach and tide elevation are just right, rip current speeds can extend as far as 3,000 feet offshore, reach 90 feet in width, and travel up to 4 feet per second.

They are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. While rip currents don’t pull swimmers under the water, they can pull even strong swimmers away from shore. 

Scan the water from a high area such as a sand dune or deck and look for the following characteristics:

  • A streak of water that is a different color or may look more murky or darker than the surrounding water.
  • A gap in advancing breakers where the rip current is pushing its way seaward.
  • A line of foam extending offshore.
  • An offshore plume of turbid water past the sandbar.
  • If still unsure, throw a floating object into the water and see if it moves steadily seaward.
  • Check weather and water conditions before going to the beach by looking at the local beach forecast and talking to the lifeguards.
  • Only swim at a beach with lifeguards.
  • If you do not swim well, know your limits. Stay within wading depths and watch for sudden drop-offs.

Find more rip current safety information at

  • If caught in a rip current, don't fight it. Swimming against the the current can cause fatigue and drowning.
  • Swim parallel to shore until you feel the current lessen and then swim to shore.
  • If you can't break out of the current, float with it until it dissipates, usually just beyond the breakers. Then swim diagonally to shore.
  • If you feel you can't reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help.

Find more rip current safety information at

Tips to survive being caught in a rip current: Relax, rip currents don’t pull you under. Don’t swim against the current. Swim out of the current, then to shore. If you can’t escape, float or tread water. If you need help, yell or wave for assistance.

Courtesy of the National Weather Service