Rip Currents Facts and Preparedness

Rip Currents

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Provided by NOAA’s
National Weather Service


  • Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches.
  • Rip currents typically form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as jetties and piers.
  • Rip currents are quite common and can be found on many surf beaches every day, including Great Lakes beaches.
  • Rip current speeds vary. Average speeds are 1-2 feet per second, but they have been measured as fast as 8 feet per second faster than an Olympic swimmer!
  • Rip currents can be very narrow or more than 50 yards wide.
  • Sometimes rip currents end just beyond the line of breaking waves; however, they may continue to pull hundreds of yards offshore.
  • Rip currents do not pull people under the water – they pull people away from shore.


Learn to swim! When at the beach:

  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake.
  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify potential hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist along the sides of these structures.
  • Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
  • Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.

If caught in a rip current:

  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Never fight against the current.
  • Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
  • Swim out of the current following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle-away from the current-towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.

Click for more information regarding rip currents from the NOAA’s National Weather Service