rip currents newport ri

How To Recognize and Avoid Rip Currents

Rip currents, also known as riptides or undertows, are long, narrow bands of water that can pull objects away from shore and out to sea. These currents pose significant dangers, so it’s crucial to know how to identify and avoid them. On Aquidneck Island, the two local beaches where rip currents are most common are Easton’s Beach (1st Beach) and Sachuest Beach (2nd Beach).

The Dangers of Rip Currents

According to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), rip currents are the leading surf hazard for beachgoers. More than 100 people die annually from rip current-related drownings—more than from shark attacks, tornadoes, and lightning strikes combined. At least 80 percent of lifeguard rescues are due to rip currents.

Rip currents are powerful, fast-moving channels of water, reaching speeds of up to 8 feet per second. They typically flow from the shoreline to beyond the area where waves break and can form on any beach or lake shore where waves are breaking, especially near sandbars, jetties, and piers. These currents can drag even the strongest swimmers away from shore, leading to distress and panic.


rip currents newport ri

Identifying Rip Currents

Would you recognize a rip current if you saw one? Rip currents are not easily identifiable to most people. However, some recognizable characteristics include:

  • A choppy channel of water with a churning motion.
  • A line of sea foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily out to sea.
  • A disrupted pattern of incoming waves.

Look for educational signs and surf hazard warning flags posted by beach patrols, which correspond to specific surf conditions and local rip current activity.

Staying Informed

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service issues regional surf zone forecasts that help local authorities determine the risk of rip currents (low, moderate, and high). These risk assessments help lifeguards and law enforcement officials decide whether the water is safe for swimming.

Safety Tips

To avoid becoming a statistic, familiarize yourself with the warning flags for your area and swim only on guarded beaches. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, remember these crucial steps:

  • Stay Calm: Don’t fight the rip current.
  • Swim Parallel: To escape the rip current, swim sideways, parallel to the beach. This will get you out of the current so you can swim back to shore with the waves.
  • Angle Toward Shore: Once out of the rip current, swim at an angle away from it and toward the shore.
  • Float If Necessary: If you can’t escape, try to float or calmly tread water. The rip current will eventually weaken offshore. When it does, swim toward shore.
  • Signal for Help: If you’re unable to reach shore, face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help to draw attention.

Stay safe, stay informed, and enjoy your time at the beach responsibly.

rip currents newport ri

– info courtesy of NOAA

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