How to Escape a Riptide

A rip tide is a large and powerful current of water that moves in the direction opposite to an onshore wind. Rip tides can be hazardous for those venturing near shorelines, as they are often stronger than the waves generated by normal weather conditions. Some people have been known to jump into their rip tide if it’s moving towards land when there’s no saving them from being pulled down with it.

Rip currents are a hazard that can happen in the ocean. If you get caught up in one, there is no escape. There is only one way to escape a rip current: swim parallel to the shoreline until it passes and then swim back out.

Vintage adventure magazine cover in which man swimming in riptide.

Summer is coming to an end. If you made it to the beach this year, you were able to acquire a tan and avoid being attacked by a shark. Congratulations! However, there is another swimming hazard to be cautious of, and it is approaching its most deadly season: the riptide.

Riptides (technically referred to as rip currents since they aren’t truly tides) are long, narrow channels of water that travel from coast to sea and may carry you along with them. They’re significantly more prevalent during hurricane season, particularly from August to October, when the season is at its apex.

Riptides are responsible for 80% of all open water rescue efforts, and they take over 100 lives each year. So here’s a crash course on what a rip current is, how to recognize one, and how to stay alive if you get caught in one.

What Is a Rip Current and How Does It Work?

Rip currents are water channels that run out to sea away from the land. As waves crash on the coast, water collects and needs a somewhere to go. The river may choose the route of least resistance and be channelled into a channel between two barriers rather than returning over the reef or sandbar from whence it came. The NOAA has a helpful illustration and a more technical explanation:

Riptide GIF illustration diagram.

  • Before breaking in the channel region, waves break on the sand bars.
  • When waves break, the water level rises over the bars in comparison to the channel level.
  • The greater water level above the bars creates a pressure differential.
  • A current runs down the beach as a result of the pressure gradient (the feeder current).
  • Longshore currents converge and turn seaward, passing between the sand bars via the low region or channel.

Rips may be classified into three types:

Due to falling water levels or rising wave heights, a rip current may arise rapidly and dissipate just as quickly.

A fixed rip, which may develop between sand bars and remain in the same spot for days, weeks, or even months, is a kind of rip.

A rip may be permanent at a location with a permanent impediment, such as a reef.

What to Look for in a Rip Current

Riptides may happen everywhere there are breaking waves, especially in enormous bodies of water. It’s not always simple to see a rip current, particularly for the inexperienced eye. So pay attention to any warnings that are displayed or given by lifeguards or others.

Along with images from the University of Delaware, here are other things to watch for:

Rip current photo diagram with parts of riptide.

Rip current riptide photo of beach.a churning, foamy, or turbulent water channel

Rip current riptide shown from crowded beach.Seaweed is picked up by rip currents, generating a debris conga line that advances slowly seaward.

Photo of rip current riptide at beach.The rip current gathers up and stirs up sand in addition to debris, so check for sections of the water that are a different color than the surrounding water.

Riptide rip current at beach.The oncoming wave pattern has a break in it.

How to Get Away from a Rip Current

A rip current might emerge out of nowhere, as previously stated. They may also quickly increase their speed. A rip current running at 1-2 feet per second isn’t something to be concerned about. However, it may swiftly accelerate to a frightening 3 feet per second and has even been detected at 8 feet per second.


Here’s what to do if you are trapped in a riptide:

Don’t be concerned. It’s terrible to feel as though you’re being swept out to sea. But try to maintain your composure. Rip currents are just channels of flowing water that will not take you under. While they may stretch very far out, they ultimately evaporate, with the majority of them dissipating within 50-100 feet of the beach. So you’re not going to wind yourself on a desolate island with nothing but a volleyball for company.

Try not to swim against the current. Riptide deaths aren’t usually caused by the river pushing someone under; instead, the victim panics, begins swimming against the rip to get back to shore, gets fatigued, and drowns. Even Michael Phelps wouldn’t be able to swim against an 8-foot-per-second riptide. Kicking against the pricks is not a good idea.

Swimming parallel to the coast is recommended. You should swim perpendicular to the rip current, in either direction, rather than against it. Rip currents are only 20-100 feet broad on average. Once you’ve gotten out of the rip, swim away from it and towards the beach.

Allow yourself to go with the flow. Float on your back and flow with the river if you don’t have the swimming ability or stamina to swim out of the rip. Imagine yourself on the Lazy River at the water park where you used to go as a child. Once the rip current has passed, you may either perform the parallel swim or attempt to signal for rescue to a lifeguard or someone else.



Watch This Video-

A rip tide is a dangerous ocean current that can occur when water moves away from shore. A rip tide will pull swimmers out to sea and drown them, so knowing how to escape one is important. Reference: what does a rip tide look like.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get out of a riptide?

A: Unless you are a professional swimmer, there is no simple way to get out of a riptide as the current pulls you under. You may want to try moving in different directions or just relax and wait for it to pass by.

Can you survive a riptide?

A: Most people who have been in the water for long periods of time know how to swim by kicking their limbs. A riptide is a large ocean current that will inevitably pull you away from shore and push you towards an area where there are no breakers or sandbars, meaning its easy to drown if caught in one.

Can you swim against a riptide?

A: You can swim against a riptide if you stay calm and act quickly. It will help to raise your head out of the water so that your face is not submerged, but try to remain calm. If you panic or struggle too much with the current it will only make things harder for yourself.

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