How to Get Out of A Rip Current [Complete Guide]

Emergency ·
How to Get Out of A Rip Current [Complete Guide]
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If you live in the coast region or plan to take a trip in and around the sea, understanding the risks associated with rip currents is very important. What is more important is understanding how to get out of a rip current and how to spot one to mitigate the risks. These powerful currents significantly threaten swimmers and surfers, often leading to accidents and drownings.

Next time you visit a coastal region to spend some leisure time, get yourself aware of rip currents and learn what to do in a rip current situation. Additionally, equip yourself with a Jackery Portable Power Station that would enable you to power up your beach essential devices, like smartphones, two-way Radio, or any other medical equipment.

What is A Rip Current?

A rip current is a narrow yet powerful stream of water flowing rapidly from the shore back to the sea or the ocean. Rip currents are typically formed when waves break near the shoreline, causing water to pile up and then flow seaward through a channel or sometimes through a gap in the sandbars. It is important for swimmers or beachgoers to be aware of rip currents and know how to escape them safely.

Several factors can cause rip currents, like:

Wave Action

Rip currents often occur when waves break near the shoreline. As waves approach the coast, they carry large amounts of water towards the shore. However, when the waves break, this accumulated water starts going back to the sea, causing the rip current.

Coastline Shape

In some cases, a coastline's overall shape can also influence the rip current. Most coastlines get irregularities such as jetties, rocky outcrops, and sandbars that create channels or gaps through which water can flow rapidly offshore. This water movement across these gaps leads to the formation of rip currents.

Wave & Tide Patterns

Wave and tide patterns can directly influence the formation of rip currents. For instance, incoming waves can push water toward the shore, which increases the charges of the rip current formation. At the same time, changes in the tide patterns directly affect the strength and location of the rip currents.

Rip Current vs Undertow

When talking about rip current, swimmers or beachgoers often confuse it with the undertow. However, an undertow and rip current are two distinct phenomena.

On the one hand, a rip current is formed when the waves break near the shoreline, leading the water to pile up and flow back to the seaside. At the same time, rip currents extend beyond the breaking waves and can even pull swimmers away from the beach.

However, an undertow refers to the phenomenon when water flows back towards the ocean after a wave breaks onshore. Unlike rip currents, the undertow feels closer to the shore and even dissipates quickly.

What Are The Risks of the Rip Currents

Rip currents can be hazardous to swimmers or beachgoers who stay on the shore to have some water-related activities. Swimmers or beachgoers caught in a rip current may panic and exhaust themselves by trying to swim directly against the flow of water. From getting pulled in to getting disoriented, there are several potential risks involved with the rip currents, like:

Strong Pulling Force

Rip currents exert a strong pulling force on anyone caught in them. If a swimmer or a beachgoer is unaware of how to get out of a rip current, they may struggle to swim against it. This swimming against the current leads to physical and mental exhaustion, causing potential panic that may result in something serious.

Potential for Drowning

The strong pull of rip currents can even carry swimmers or beachgoers away from the safety of the shoreline and into the deep waters. This increase in the distance between the shoreline and deep water can also result in exhaustion, leading to potential drowning if one cannot escape or receive immediate assistance from the lifeguards.


If a swimmer is caught in such a situation, they might get disoriented or feel confused about what they should be doing or how to escape from a rip current. Such disorientation can further lead to exhaustion and mental tiredness, which can turn into something drastic for the swimmers.

Injury or Fatality

In addition to the risk of rip currents, swimmers who are caught in them may also be at risk of injury from the powerful waves breaking in the vicinity. Being tossed around in the water further increases the likelihood of injuries or even fatality if they get some serious injury and are unable to maintain proper control or bring themselves out of the rip current.

In order to understand the risk associated with rip currents and their potential to harm swimmers, check out some of the common facts about rip currents in the United States:

Fatalities: As per a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, around 100 people die from rip current-related drownings every year. The numbers somehow have surpassed the combined fatalities from tornadoes, lightning strikes, and even shark attacks.

Speed & Distance: In the coastal areas of the United States, the rip currents flow at speeds exceeding 6 miles per hour.

Education & Awareness: The NOAA and USLA periodically conduct awareness campaigns where they discuss everything there is to learn about rip currents. The primary goal of the ongoing awareness campaign and research is to reduce the number of rip current-related fatalities.

Survival Guide: The Ocean Today, a part of NOAA, has released a survival guide that teaches how to get out of a rip current and the best safety precautions for children. The survival guide can be accessed from here.

risks of the rip current

How to Spot a Rip Current?

Rip currents are powerful, narrow currents, and if a swimmer gets stuck in one, they might injure themselves or find themselves deep inside the sea. If you are planning to visit a seashore and are worried about rip currents, there are a few crucial tips for identifying one to mitigate the risks and dangers.

Look for Differences in Water Color

Always look at the watercolor before you plan to swim. Studies have shown that rip currents often appear as darker patches of water due to the deeper channels they create. If the surrounding water is darker or murkier, then a rip current may be present in that area.

Identify Gaps in Breaking Waves

The most important factor in rip currents is breaking waves, which cause them to flow seaward. Before you start your water-related activities, look for channels or gaps in the breaking waves where the water appears calmer. Smoother or calmer water may indicate the presence of rip currents.

Observe Foam & Debris

Just like avalanches that carry debris, rip currents carry foam, seaweed, and other debris away from the shore and out to the sea. If you find a large concentration of foam or floating objects that are moving rapidly away from the beach, then it is recommended to avoid going in that area, as it could be a sign of a potential rip current.

Watch for Rippled Water

Due to frequent rip currents, surface water flows swiftly away from the shore, making it look rippled or choppy. When planning to swim or even surf, look for areas where the water appears more turbulent compared to its surrounding areas.

Tips to Avoid Rip Current

Once you have identified the presence of rip current in the water, it is best to avoid it. However, if you still plan to get into the water, there are certain tips that you can follow to mitigate the risks, like:

Swim Near Lifeguard's Station

It is always recommended to swim in that area from where a lifeguard can easily spot you. Even if you are a certified swimmer, the best practice is to go to the lifeguard's station and inform them about your swimming plans. If possible, discuss the areas and learn the effect of rip currents in the surroundings.

Stay Within the Swimming Zone

If you are swimming in a new place, the recommended practice is to stay within the designated swimming zones. Most water-related accidents happen when swimmers go deep into the water or start swimming in the danger zone. Contact the lifeguards and check out the markers to analyze the swimming zone.

Swim Parallel to the Shore

If you are swimming and have found yourself amid the rip current, then do not try swimming against the current. If you swim against the current, you will find yourself deep in the water instead of returning to the shore. The best possible way to come out of a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. Once you are out of the current, you can swim back to the shore or the bank at any desired angle.

Carry a Whistle

Most certified swimmers would agree that carrying an emergency whistle is always recommended. If you have found yourself deep inside a rip current, you first need to stay calm and use the emergency whistle to call for help.

How to Get Out of A Rip Current?

After identifying the rip current areas and exploring the important tips to avoid the same, the most important aspect is to understand how to get out of a rip current if you find yourself in. By following the generic tips and guidelines, one can increase their chance of survival by returning to the shore.

Here are a few important tips to get yourself out of a rip current:

Remain Calm

This is easier said than done, but if you find yourself in a rip current, try to stay as calm as possible. If you fight the current or try to swim against it, you will soon exhaust it. The exhaustion will lead to anxiety, leading to a more serious situation. When you are in the rip current, try to stay calm and make rational decisions.

Don't Fight the Current

This may be instinctive to try to swim directly back to shore. However, it can be extremely exhausting and challenging. Instead, you can save your energy by floating on your back, allowing the current to carry you temporarily. This short duration will give you some time to think and call for help, if possible.

Swim Parallel to the Shore

Most swimmers make this mistake when they swim against the rip current. However, swimming against it will push you back to the sea. Once you have started to feel the force of the rip current weakening, start swimming parallel to the shore and not toward it. This will allow you to escape the narrow grip easily.

Use Wave Action

When stuck in a rip current, pay attention to the breaking waves. These waves can disrupt the rip current's flow, allowing temporary pockets of weaker currents. As a swimmer who can at least know how to stay afloat, you can take advantage of such wave actions to make progress towards the shore.

Signal For Help

If you are way too deep in the water because of rip currents and are unable to swim parallel or feeling too exhausted because of all the efforts that you made to rescue yourself, you can send some signal for help. As an emergency essential, always carry a whistle with you. If you don't have a whistle, you can wave your arms or shout for assistance so you can attract the attention of lifeguards or other beachgoers.

everything to know about rip current

More Beach Safety Tips

When planning a beach holiday, getting acquainted with different safety tips is always recommended to avoid risks involved with rip currents. Here are some general beach safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience:

Swim Near a Lifeguard

Whenever possible, try to swim in an area where a lifeguard can easily spot you if you are in a quandary. Certified lifeguards are trained to identify rip currents and other potential hazards and can even provide CPR if needed.

Learn Swim Safety

Before visiting unknown sea areas, it is recommended that you take swimming lessons or at least familiarize yourself with basic water safety techniques, like swimming strokes, treading water, and floating back. These basic swimming techniques can significantly reduce your risk of drowning.

Group Swimming

If you are traveling with a group, take as many people as possible with you when you go swimming. If you are traveling alone, look for a place where several people are already enjoying the water activities. Group swimming significantly reduces your chances of getting caught in a rip current.

Avoid Alcohol

Do not swim under the influence of alcohol or any recreational drug. Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment and coordination and also increase the risk of accidents and drowning. Instead you can have a coffee or a refreshing juice before heading for a swim, as it would increase your focus and also let you stay hydrated.

Feet First Water Entry

Expert swimmers have an old habit of always testing the water with their feet first before completely submerging themselves. When entering the water, enter your feet first to avoid potential hazards like rocks, sandbars, or hidden marine life.

Stay Hydrated

Before planning a swim on a sunny day, drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. You can try pineapple juice or pina colada to stay hydrated for extended periods of time in the sun.

As you can understand, these are generic tips that surely come in handy when traveling to a beach to enjoy some leisure time. However, you will need to modify certain tips and precautionary methods based on the age of your group.

Here is a detailed tips tailored specifically for different age groups:

Beach Safety Tips for Adults

  • Always wear appropriate floating devices.
  • Refrain from taking any risk, like drinking alcohol.
  • Keep up-to-date on weather forecasts and water conditions.
  • Avoid swimming in rough surf or adverse conditions.
  • Always assign a designated 'water watcher' to maintain supervision.
  • When stuck at a remote location, carry a Jackery Portable Power Station to charge your appliances.

Beach Safety Tips for Teens

  • Always swim with a friend or a trustworthy partner.
  • Learn hand communication methods involving risks and concerns.
  • Avoid risky behavior, like diving into shallow water or swimming in strong currents.
  • Avoid taking unnecessary risks just to impress others.
  • Always stay in shallow water or closer to shore.

Beach Safety Tips for Kids

  • Always stick close to parents, caregivers, or guardians when visiting water bodies.
  • Always swim within sight of a responsible adult who can provide assistance.
  • Always pay attention to the lifeguard's instructions.
  • Learn and follow basic water safety rules.
  • Practice floating and treading water skills to feel confident in the water.

Moreover, there are different flag colors that are mounted near the seaside. Each of the flags has a different meaning. You can ask a lifeguard to help you understand the flag. As per Healthline, different beaches have different flag colors, but most of them have more or less similar meaning:

beach warning flags type

Jackery Portable Power Stations for Emergencies

Jackery is an international manufacturer of solar generators, portable power stations, and solar panels. This world-renowned brand has sold 4 million units (2024 updated) and has achieved numerous accolades in the research and development field of solar power.

A Jackery Portable Power Station is a portable unit specially designed for those who prefer outdoor adventures. When connected with Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels, these portable power stations' pure sine wave inverters can convert DC into AC electricity, helping charge quick appliances like flashlights, radios, smartphones, etc.

While on a beach or any other outdoor location, a Jackery Portable Power Station provides an emergency power supply to your electronics, ensuring you can communicate with others if needed.

Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station

The Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station is a portable unit that weighs only 8.27 lbs. It is designed for those who want to quickly charge their appliances while on the beach. With multiple charging ports and easy recharging methods, this portable power station is an ideal companion for outdoor emergencies.

Appliances Running Time:

Laptop (100W): 2.4 H

Portable Refrigerator (90W): 2.7 H

Two-Way Radio (50W): 4.8 H

Mini Projector (50W): 4.8 H

Smartphone (20W): 12.2 H

Flashlight (10W): 24.4 H

jackery explorer 300 plus portable power station for how to get out of rip current

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The Jackery Explorer 100 Plus Portable Power Station is a best-selling power station that weighs merely 965 grams and can easily be placed in the palm of your hand. With multiple PD outputs, this portable power station can simultaneously charge 3 devices while you are enjoying a beach picnic. Its ideal weight and whisper-quiet mode also make it a reliable companion during air travel.

Appliances Running Time:

Two-Way Radio (50W): 1.6 H

Mini Projector (50W): 1.6 H

Smartphone (20W): 4.2 H

Flashlight (10W): 8.4 H

jackery explorer 100 plus portable power station for how to get out of rip current

Customer Review

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How to Get Out Out Of A Rip Current FAQs

How do you escape a rip current?

First of all, you should stay calm and avoid panicking. Now instead of trying to swim directly back to the shore, start swimming in parallel to the shoreline. You can further use an emergency whistle to call for help if needed.

What to do if you're caught in a rip current?

If you are caught in a rip current, try to stay calm and avoid fighting the current by swimming directly against it. Try floating on your back to conserve energy and assess the situation.

How far out do rip currents go?

According to the National Weather Services, rip currents can stretch up to 50 yards wide, and some may continue to flow hundreds of yards offshore. The distance a rip current extends also varies depending on factors such as wave and tide conditions and underwater topography.

What does a rip current feel like?

A rip current feels like a strong, narrow flow of water that pulls you away from the shore. If you are in the water, you might feel a sudden increase in the water movement that may carry you away from the bank.

What is the difference between a rip current and a rip tide?

A rip current is a fast-moving channel of water flowing from the shore out to sea. But a riptide is a strong, fast-moving current caused by the ebb and flow of tides in any coastal area.

Prepare For Rip Current Correctly

Rip currents may cause significant injury to swimmers, and by understanding the dangers and how to get out of a rip current, one can better recognize the patterns and take appropriate precautions to avoid getting caught in between. When planning your next outdoor adventure, you can carry a Jackery Portable Power Station with you. These portable power stations' compact and ergonomic design is ideal for carrying from your car or RV to the seaside. You can even leave these power stations to get charged using the Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels while you enjoy a great swim with your friends.

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