Skip to main content


Little known hazards on our beaches – 1. Rips

While untrodden beaches are appealing, they may harbour hidden hazards

It’s summer. It’s hot and it’s hard to resist Australia’s beautiful beaches, but a couple of words of caution are in order before you dive in. I am not telling you this to scare you, but because visitors and newcomers are overrepresented in the statistics of those who come to grief and we want everyone to have a great day and come home safely.  That includes Australians.

While shark attacks grab the headlines, they pale into insignificance as a cause of death compared to drownings and some other lesser -known nasties. For this reason Surf Life Saving Clubs have been warning about rips this season. This refers to fast running currents in the water that have the potential to drag you out to sea. They are one of most common reasons why swimmers get into difficulty. Here is how to recognise them, followed by how to get out of one. The main thing is not to panic.

 I learnt a bit myself from this video, even though most Aussies grow up with beaches. As the video shows, it’s not the boiling waves that are the problem, but the strangely smooth sections.

Guess where the rip might be in this picture

 Ideally you should only swim between the flags at patrolled beaches, especially if you are a poor swimmer, but with only 3% of our coastline patrolled, that's not always an option. The best thing is to go with a friend. That way if you run into trouble, there’ll be someone to help or at least raise the alarm. The correct way to rescue someone is not to jump in after them and endanger yourself, but to reach for a pole or branch which you then hold out to the other person from a secure position on the land or a boat.  If you don’t know the area, don’t dive into unknown waters either. Many people have been seriously injured or killed that way. Talk to the locals first. They may also know where the best  surf is and where sharks are likely to hang about. It is also important to learn CPR - Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.