Rip currents are powerful, channeled
currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend
from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of
breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking
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. Rip currents account
for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.
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. The United States Lifesaving Association has
calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a
beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million.
If caught in a rip current at an unguarded beach, how you respond
could make the difference between life and death.
NOAA's National Weather Service
National Sea Grant
Program, in partnership with the United States Lifesaving
Association, are working together to raise awareness about the
dangers of rip currents. Research is also being conducted in order
to develop and improve the ability to predict the occurrence and
strength of rip currents. The goal of the awareness campaign and
research is to reduce the number of rip current related
A daily rip current outlook is included in the Surf Zone Forecast,
which is issued by many National Weather Service offices. A
three-tiered structure of low, moderate, high is used to describe
the rip current risk. This outlook is communicated to lifeguards,
emergency management, media and the general public.
Rip Current Article in Publications