Rip current escape strategies: Lessons for swimmers and coastal rescue authorities

Michael Miloshis, Wayne Stephenson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Lagrangian flow of two rip currents was measured using human drifters to understand how variations in surf zone circulation affect exit positions of floating swimmers. Based on these results, two escape strategies were assessed, 'do nothing' and 'swim parallel to the beach'. The drifter paths and exit positions were analysed to determine the best escape strategy for passive swimmers in each scenario. Of the two methods, doing nothing to allow the rip current to take a swimmer is the most effective strategy. More than 75% of rip current flow scenarios could hinder chances of escape of swimmers if the wrong direction was chosen to swim parallel to the beach to safety. This is because in many situations a swimmer encounters not only a rip current flowing offshore but also a longshore current flowing parallel to the beach. The best education campaign for the public, in addition to only swimming on a patrolled beach, would be to promote the 'do nothing' rip current escape strategy, as it covers all flow scenarios without reducing a swimmer's chance of survival.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)823-832
    Number of pages10
    JournalNatural Hazards
    Issue number2
    Early online date2 Apr 2011
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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