We all love the water particularly during the summer when it is warm and inviting but we need to be aware of the dangers and one of the dangers is Rip Tides or Rip Currents which are fast moving belts of water flowing away from the shore. They occur mainly on surfing beaches with breaking waves.
Why Rip Currents Form
As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they will break near the shoreline. When waves break strongly in some locations and weakly in others, this can cause circulation cells which are seen as rip currents: narrow, fast-moving belts of water traveling offshore.
Why Rip Currents are Dangerous
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 Kmph. However, speeds as high as 8 Kmph have been measured. Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.
Rip currents can occur at any surf beach with breaking waves.
When Rip Currents Form
Rip currents can be found on many surf beaches every day. Under most tide and sea conditions the speeds are relatively slow. However, under certain wave, tide, and beach profile conditions the speeds can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the surf. The strength and speed of a rip current will likely increase as wave height and wave period increase. They are most likely to be dangerous during high surf conditions as the wave height and wave period increase.
Where Rip Currents Form
Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards. The seaward pull of rip currents varies: sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, but sometimes rip currents continue to push hundreds of yards offshore.
How to Identify Rip Currents
Look for any of these clues:
- A channel of churning, choppy water
- An area having a notable difference in water color
- A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
- A break in the incoming wave pattern
None, one, or more of the above clues may indicate the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are often not readily or easily identifiable to the average beachgoer. For your safety, be aware of this major surf zone hazard. Polarized sunglasses make it easier to see the rip current clues provided above.
How to Avoid and Survive Rip Currents
If you do find yourself caught in a rip:
- Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.
- If you can stand, wade don’t swim.
- If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.
- Always raise your hand and shout for help.
If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
The following safety information has been lifted from the Irish Water Safety site.
The waters in Ireland are cold. Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement. Survival time can be limited. Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/cold-water-shock
Whatever happens we want you to be safe in the water and to enjoy your stay in Mayo. Always respect the water, know your limitations and never ever swim or surf alone. Buddy up with someone and look out for each other.
We have uploaded an excellent award-winning video from University of New South Wales (UNSW) explaining exactly what Rip Currents are and more importantly what you should and should not do if you are caught in one.