What you need to know about rips



1. Don’t get in a rip in the first place
If you don’t get in a rip, you won’t drown in one so you should always swim on patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags. You also learn how to spot a rip - dark gaps between breaking waves. Remember ‘white is nice, green is mean’!

2. Don’t panic
If you do find yourself caught in a rip, please try and remain calm and remember that rips do not pull you under the water. Rips won’t drown you, but panic will.

3. Don’t swim against the rip
Many rips flow faster than the average swimmer can swim. Swimming against the current back to the beach will only tire you out and can lead to panic.

4. Stay afloat and signal for help
If you are not a good swimmer, conserve your energy by staying afloat, raise your arm and signal for help from a lifeguard or nearby surfer. Stay afloat by treading water, or lying on your back while gently mvoing your arms and legs.

5. Swim towards the side of the rip
If you are a strong, confident swimmer, you can swim sideways out of the rip by aiming for the areas of breaking waves and whitewater. Whitewater is nice because it means it’s shallow and breaking waves help you back to the beach, dark green areas are mean because they usually mean deeper rip channels.

6. Go with the flow
Conserve your energy and let the rip take you for a ride. Most of the time, rips will carry you back onto the shallow sand bar. If you do get spit out the back, swim along the beach and then diagonally back in where the waves are breaking.

7. If in doubt, don’t go out
If there are a lot of breaking waves and you don’t know how to spot a rip and there are no lifeguards or people around, then DON’T go swimming. It’s that simple.

These tips were sourced from Dr Rip’s Essential Beach Book by Dr Rob Brander. Dr Brander is a surf scientist from the University of New South Wales. He has been studying rips for almost 20 years and has earned the nickname ‘Dr Rip’ from the Bondi Lifeguards for his efforts. He is a former lifesaver and caretaker at the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, and has been giving talks on ‘The Science of the Surf’ to the community and thousands of school children since 2001.


I ripped my pants once. Very embarrassing.