What is a rip current?
A rip current is a body of water trying to find it’s own natural level. Waves move water onto the shores of a beach that water then tends to run back out to sea via the deepest avenue. Beaches are rarely 100% flat and if you look carefully you will see that the sand has built up in certain places causing deep and shallow patches. This can change from day to day. Hence why the lifeguards may put the bathing flags in different places at different times of the day or week.
Some times rips can be fixed and normally occur in river mouths or next to fixed objects such as piers or rocks.
How do you spot a rip current?
Rip currents can be visually identified from the beach.
- Via a break in the pattern of the waves — the water often looks flat in a rip, in contrast to the lines of breaking waves on either side of the rip current.
- Can look like a “river” — the surface of the rip can sometimes looks foamy and ripply, because the current is carrying foam from the surf out to open water.
- Can be a different color — the rip current may be a different colour than the surrounding water; it is often more opaque, cloudier, or muddier, and so, the rip may show as darker or lighter than the surrounding water.
Here is a video captured by a drone of a rip current in Cornwall and kingsurf explaining how to get out out of trouble if you get caught in one.