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Five tips on surviving surf rips

2 October 2015

Dr Jak McCarroll from the School of Geosciences offers five pointers for swimmers this summer.

1. Understand where rips are found

Rips generally occur on ocean beaches where waves are big enough to go surfing, usually at the more exposed end of the beach.

2. Learn to identify a rip

Dark patches of water, wavy, snaky shorelines, outward bending wave crests all indicate rips may be present. Their flow behaviour can change every 5-10 minutes.

3. Play it safe

There’s no silver bullet to escaping rip currents, which are hazardous and unpredictable. People who are not experienced surfers or bodysurfers should always swim between the flags, which are positioned to avoid rips.

4. Experienced surf swimmers can try a series of rip escape methods

These rip escape methods include staying afloat, or swimming parallel to shore – before finding one that works for the rip you’re in. Our research showed this can take up to 10 minutes so you should conserve energy, swimming at a gradual pace; escaping a rip is like a game of chess.

5. Don't panic

Panicking and swimming as fast as you can into the rip is a good way to become exhausted and drown. However our research has shown that an early controlled attempt to swim onshore (towards the shore) is often successful. If you attempt to escape a rip by swimming onshore, do it early and if it doesn’t succeed within 30 seconds of steady paced swimming, STOP and try something else.

Dr McCarroll’s findings on how to best escape rips were recently published in Geomorphology and Natural Hazards.



Verity Leatherdale

Manager, Faculty Media and PR
  • + 61 2 9351 4312
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Escaping a rip is like a game of chess
Dr Jak McCarroll

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