Rip Current Safety and Awareness


Heading to the beach soon? When going in for a swim, be alert to the signs of rip currents. Don’t get dragged out to sea! Remember, your chances of surviving a rip current — or any other beach-related hazard — are greatly increased if you’re swimming off a beach staffed by lifeguards.

Here’s a great VIDEO that puts it all in your visual perspective and gives you a couple easy tips on how to “Break the Grip of the Rip” and escape from a rip current.

Rip Current Threat Increases with Tropical Cyclones

The strong winds of a tropical cyclone can cause dangerous waves that pose a significant hazard to mariners and coastal residents and visitors. When the waves break along the coast, they can produce deadly rip currents – even at large distances from the storm.

Rip currents are channeled currents of water flowing away from shore, usually extending past the line of breaking waves, that can pull even the strongest swimmers away from shore.

In 2008, despite the fact that Hurricane Bertha was more than a 1,000 miles offshore, the storm resulted in rip currents that killed three people along the New Jersey coast and required 1,500 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, Maryland, over a 1 week period.

In 2009, all six deaths in the United States directly attributable to tropical cyclones occurred as the result of drowning from large waves or strong rip currents.

Rip Current Outlooks

Surf Zone Forecasts contain Rip Current Outlooks. Rip Current Outlooks use the following, three-tiered set of qualifiers:

  • Low Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions are not expected to support the development of rip currents; however, rip currents can sometimes occur, especially in the vicinity of groins, jetties, and piers. Know how to swim and heed the advice of lifeguards.
  • Moderate Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions support stronger or more frequent rip currents. Only experienced surf swimmers should enter the water.
  • High Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions support dangerous rip currents. Rip currents are life-threatening to anyone entering the surf.

When you arrive at the beach, ask the lifeguard about rip currents and other potentially dangerous water conditions expected for the day.