Terrifying riptides can come out of nowhere and trap ocean swimmers - but they don't have to be fatal. Riptides or rip currents, are long, narrow bands of water that quickly pull any objects in them away from shore and out to sea. About 100 people die every year from rip currents. They can be very dangerous but also relatively easy to escape.

About 80% of all lifeguard saves are attributed to rip currents.

The first thing to remember, is not to struggle against the current. This is how most riptide deaths occur, not the tides themselves.It is unlikely you will make it back to shore, so you will exhaust yourself and are more likely to drown.

Swimming toward shore will not help either as this is fighting against the current too. You WILL lose.

The best way to combat the current is to swim parallel with the shore and across the current. Riptides are normally less than 100 feet wide so swimming beyond it should be far easier than trying to fight it.

If you are unable to swim out of the riptide do not panic, turn on your back and let the current take you out to sea and beyond the pull of the riptide. This is usually about 50 to 100 yards from shore. Once it has subsided swim sideways and back to shore.


  1. Riptides occur more frequently in strong winds.
  2. Look for streaks of muddy or sandy water.
  3. Floating debris moving out to sea through the surf.
  4. Reduced wave height in the surf.
  5. Depressions in the beach running at right angles to the shore.

These are all signs that Riptides may be present, so be aware.


  1. Lifeguards will often post rip tide areas with red flags to show where it is safe to swim.
  2. Check for riptide postings, or ask the lifeguard before going in the water.
  3. Do not let children play unattended in the water.
  4. Don't swim near piers or jetties, which often cause rip tides to form.
  5. Wherever possible always swim within sight of lifeguards or the flags they set out for beach goers.
  6. Never swim alone.



Comments 4 comments

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

great hub.

NDBEES profile image

NDBEES 7 years ago from DEVON Author

Thank you.

MellasViews profile image

MellasViews 7 years ago from Earth

Another excellent hub. I got caught in a rip tide as a kid. I obviouslly made it out, but it was by far the most frightening experince I had ever had.

Pray for Dale 5 years ago

Ostrander, of Spanaway, Wash., was swimming in the waters off the Washington coast with members of his church youth group Aug. 5 when he was caught in a riptide and pulled underwater just north of Long Beach, Wash.

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