NOAA Reminds Beachgoers That Rip Currents Can Be a Threat 

Rip Current Awareness Week Is June 1-7, 2008

June 2, 2008

NOAA Rip Current Sign.

NOAA Rip Current Sign.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Heading to the beach for summer vacation? NOAA is urging beachgoers to learn how to “Break the Grip” of rip currents before getting into the water. Rip currents are a deadly threat — accounting for more than 80 percent of lifeguard beach rescues. 

Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the shore. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. 

Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer and can easily overpower a victim. Panicked swimmers often incorrectly swim straight back to shore — putting themselves at risk of drowning because of fatigue.

If caught in a rip current, don’t fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and then swim at an angle – away from the current – toward shore.

“We have a constant education campaign about rip currents since many people visit the beach infrequently and may be unfamiliar with this leading surf hazard,” said Timothy Schott, meteorologist with NOAA’s National Weather Service Marine and Coastal Branch in Silver Spring, Md. “This year, we have developed bilingual English-Spanish signs to reach a wider audience with life-saving instructions on how to break the grip.”

Rip current survivor, after rescue by lifeguard, being helped from ocean by two lifeguards. Mock rip current rescue demonstration by lifeguards. Rip Current Awareness Week, June 5, 2007, Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook , NJ , press conference.

Life guards rescue victim from rip current.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

"Rip currents can be killers. The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation's beaches exceeds 100,” said Peter Davis, president of the Gulf Coast Region of the United States Lifesaving Association and chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol.  “The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards."         

NOAA also offers the following safety tips:

  1. Swim at lifeguard-protected beaches.
  2. Never swim alone.
  3. Speak to on duty lifeguards about rip currents and other expected water hazards.

Many coastal National Weather Service offices issue what's known as Surf Zone Forecasts that provide a low, moderate or high description of rip current risk. All NOAA National Weather Service offices include moderate to high risk of rip currents in their Hazardous Weather Outlook. These forecasts are available online at

More safety tips and educational materials are free and available to download at

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.