Rip currents are a major surf zone hazard

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A rip current is a horizontal current that can pull you away from the shore. Drownings occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. Rip currents can be narrow or wide extending to hundreds of yards and typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and near structures such as jetties and piers.

Clues to help recognise rip currents

None, one or more of the following clues may indicate the presence of rip currents: a channel of churning, choppy water; an area having a notable difference in water colour; a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward; and a break in the incoming wave pattern.

If you are caught in a rip current
  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 999 or 112. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape.

See Water Safety Ireland for more information on rip currents.

EPA Bathing Water Team