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Riptide Advice
updated: Jul 09, 2014, 8:36 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

I've heard that there are riptide advisories in effect now at our beaches but at the same time I'm seeing lifeguards and kids out there, surfers and swimmers.

If there's really a danger of riptides out there then why is everyone out there? I'm eager to swim in the ocean but I'm not a fabulous swimmer. How do you spot a riptide?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 SBSURFERLIFE agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 08:44 AM

Look for any of the following clues, which may indicate the presence of rip currents:

-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.



 COMMENT 533972P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 08:47 AM

tough to see a riptide - but if you notice a a flow of foam or debris coming from the same direction in the water or sort of a clouded choppy section of water then its probably a riptide - the key is not to struggle against it - problem arise when dudes panic - it's better to go with the ride, and swim sort of diagonal back to the beach.


 COMMENT 533976 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 08:59 AM

A bit difficult to spot but you'll know if you're in one. Usually, the waves don't break the same way as on either side. Maybe even for a a bit of a gap between breaks. It's important to note that riptides can form anywhere along the beach and can move along the beach, they don't necessarily stay in the same place.

Think of a riptide like a narrow river with a current pulling you out.


 COMMENT 533978 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:03 AM

Yes...I got caught in one as a teen and almost drowned trying to fight it and swim back towards shore, which does NOT work. You have to go with it and swim parallel to the shore till you are out of it, and then swim back. I was pulled out even though I was maybe chest deep in the water when it first got me. Horrifying.


 COMMENT 533980 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:05 AM

SB is the least likely place in CA to have dangerous riptides, for example today LA and Ventura counties have a high riptide risk but no mention of that in SB. The beaches are not steep and the surf is generally tiny in summer, like today. The ocean is dangerous at all times if you're not a good swimmer, and it is pretty much always safe if you have the skills, but no one is expected to think or be responsible for themselves anymore. Expect in the future that every day will be labeled a "dangerous riptide risk" and the beaches will eventually be fenced off due to the unavoidable danger.


 COMMENT 533983 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:14 AM

It also helps to understand what causes rip tides so they can be more easily recognized. Most common is high frequency of waves pushing water onshore forcing retreating water to find a channel against the oncoming surf action. Beach topography and convergent angles of incoming waves can contribute to this too. The retreating "dirty" water may be foamier and have more mixed in sediments compared to the "clean" water coming onshore.

Also avoid slough mouths as the tidal flow from these can be pretty strong too.


 COMMENT 533993P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:34 AM

Good question, OP, thanks for asking. I've been curious about this, too.


 COMMENT 533996 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:41 AM

The reference to picturing a narrow river is spot-on.

Like a creek entering into the ocean, except there's no creek on the shore end of it.

So, if you try to swim to shore you are swimming upcurrent into a river. The way out is to swim parallel to the beach to get out of the river.


 COMMENT 533998 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 09:42 AM

No riptides in SB, especially in summer. IF at any point you do feel like you are getting pulled pout past your comfort zone and cant seem to get into shore, swim parallel to the beach until swimming in is easier. Don't swim in the ocean unless you are capable of doing this.


 COMMENT 534052 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 12:04 PM

Islands block summer south swells.no summer ripcurrents here. rip tides is no longer used by the way.


 COMMENT 534065 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 12:59 PM

when it doubt, don't go out.


 COMMENT 534068 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 01:07 PM

Did anyone else notice that the National Weather service recently issued public advisories for rip currents on both the east and west coasts?

I thought that was really weird since rip currents can form in any type of weather and any beach more or less at random, how can the Weather Service possibly make such a prediction?


 COMMENT 534070 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 01:09 PM

You see them all of the time along the Faria area, where the RVs are parked. Rippled water surface and waves look different.


 COMMENT 534084 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 01:55 PM

OP - Google "how to spot a riptide". There are a ton of informative videos that show you exactly what to look for.


 COMMENT 534105 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 02:38 PM

@ 68 southern hemi swell west coast, hurricane east coast.


 COMMENT 534149 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 04:09 PM

We were surfing Rincon a week or so ago and there was a definite rip current. One young man was pulled out and shuttled south, where he seemed trapped. Two adults eventually spotted him and though they were not at all physically fit went out to him and became trapped, too. After some time they all made it in, thankfully. Be careful.


 COMMENT 534194 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 05:29 PM

According to Wikipedia, rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves in any type of weather, so a rip current advisory for the entire east and west coast of the USA makes about as much sense as an advisory that it gets cold in winter.


 COMMENT 534204P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 06:04 PM

"Rip tides" are not the same as "rip currents," which is what OP actually meant to ask about. It is a common mistake to refer to rip currents as rip tides. Please read:

Source: The Science Channel curiosity.discovery.com

Science Channel
Rip currents, riptides and undertow have different names because they're different phenomena. Rip currents are strong, narrow jets of water that move away from the beach and into the ocean. They can flow quickly, typically around 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour; they aren't predictable and are a result of the shape of the coastline. A riptide is caused by the moon's gravitational pull and is a predictable rise and fall of the water level. Undertows are currents that pull you underwater to the bottom of the ocean.


 COMMENT 534213 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 07:07 PM

If you notice the people on shore getting smaller and smaller, you may have spotted one.


 COMMENT 534267P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-09 11:15 PM

Good info, 204P.


 COMMENT 534273P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 05:58 AM

Watch out for the under toad!
(Remember that from The World According to Garp?)


 COMMENT 534348 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 08:51 AM

Encountered a rip tide current while snorkling at McKenna Beach in Maui. Not uncommon when the late morning and afternoon tradewinds come up. They push water toward the shore which then returns back seaward. Not visible on the surface of the water but was immediately detectable when I and my family members were swimming back toward the beach where we went in and were getting nowhere fast. Instead of fighting the current and possibly getting exhausted we recognized what was happening and we all picked a point down the beach at an angle and began swimming toward that target, thus swimming across the current rather than into and against it. It worked like a charm. After having lunch we noticed a small sign not only informing us there was no lifeguard on duty but that there were riptide currents to beware of.


 COMMENT 534407 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 10:51 AM

348 rip tide, or rip current? 204 P says you can't have it both ways. But I still use tidal wave and everyone knows what I mean.


 OLD TIMER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 03:10 PM

I was caught in a rip current on the north shore of Oahu in December years ago. It was moving fast parallel to the beach toward a rocky point. Looked like a river flowing with a lot of bubbles in it. Two choices, swim perpendicular out to sea or perpendicular to the beach where the waves were about 10 ft and breaking right at the beach. The spot where I entered the water had about 4 ft waves on the beach. I chose the beach and fell off the crest of a 10 footer onto the shoreline. To my surprise, there was a lot of churning water that cushioned my fall. The real problem was getting up the steep slope of the beach. After 2 or 3 10 footers crashing down on me I was finally washed up the beach far enough to not be washed back down on the receding wave. A harrowing experienced I don't need to do again.


 COMMENT 534493 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 03:10 PM

I think you mean Makena Beach (Big Beach). McKenna sounds like you were somewhere in Scotland. LOL


 COMMENT 534515 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 04:02 PM

McKenna is actually not Scottish by an Irish surname. LOL


 COMMENT 534520 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-07-10 04:12 PM

I was snorkeling once with my girlfriend near Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach in Maui and we both got caught in a rip tide. Freaked us out and my girlfriend paniced a bit before we were abole to get to the rocks and pull ourselves out of the water. After that scary incident we went and picked up a couple of cheap floating noodles to snorkel with. THe currents in Hawaii can be real sketchy in many places.


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