Be rip aware in Geraldton this summer

Summer is here. In Gero that means lots of sunshine, heat and trips to the beach. 

Each year surf life savers and passing locals have to rescue swimmers who get themselves caught in rips along our coast, so take a few moments to get educated on what a rip is and how to avoid trouble. 

Info from

What is a rip?

When waves break on a beach, they push water towards the shoreline. Once that water reaches the shore, it has to find a way to get back out to sea, and it does this by flowing downwards into deeper channels in the surf zone. Once the water is in these deeper areas, it can flow back out to sea away from the shoreline. These deeper channels are called rip currents.

How dangerous are rips?

Rip currents are the number 1 hazard on Australian beaches being responsible for at least 21 drownings on average per year, as well as being the cause of many rescues. Rip currents often lead to drowning when swimmers attempt to fight the current trying to swim directly back to the shoreline, become exhausted and begin to panic.

Rip currents can also be deadly for non-swimmers as a person standing in waist deep water can be dragged into the deeper waters of the rip current, where they can drown if they are unable to swim and are not wearing or holding a flotation device.

How do you spot a rip?

The key signs to look for are:

  • Deeper darker water
  • Fewer breaking waves
  • Sometimes sandy coloured water extending beyond the surf zone
  • Debris or seaweed
  • Sometimes it’s easier to look for where the waves are breaking consistently, and then look to each side where they don't break consistently. That’s the rip current!

What do I do if I get caught in a rip?

If you get caught in a rip current, you need to know your options:

  1. For assistance, stay calm, float and raise an arm to attract attention. 
  2. While floating, rip currents may flow in a circular pattern and return you to an adjacent sandbar.
  3. You may escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach, towards the breaking waves.
  4. You should regularly assess your situation. If your response is ineffective, you may need to adopt an alternative such as staying calm, floating and raising an arm to attract attention.

These may sound like simple options, but rip currents are complex, dynamic processes and all responses also have their pitfalls. You could float on an unpatrolled beach and not be returned to a sandbank with no-one there to help. You can also swim parallel and end up swimming against a longshore current which can flow along a beach; this will see you get tired quickly.Therefore, the best thing you can do is avoid them!

The best thing you can do is stay out of a rip current in the first place!

The best ways to do this are:

  • Always swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Learn how to spot rip currents and avoid them

Dr Rob Brander of the University of New South Wales explains how to identify a rip current. For more beach safety information visit