Identifying Waves & Rips When Ocean Swimming

by Can Too Foundation 14 Nov 2016


Identifying Rips & Currents

According to Surf Life Saving Australia initiative Beachsafe, some of the things to look out for when spotting a rip are:

  • Deeper, dark-coloured water
  • Fewer breaking waves
  • A rippled surfaced surrounded by smooth waters
  • Anything floating out to sea
  • Foamy, discoloured, sandy, water flowing out beyond the waves.

SOURCE: YouTube / Surf Life Saving Australia

Identifying the Three Types of Waves

Understanding the three types of wave forms and how to identify rips and currents are fundamental to safety and confidence for ocean swimming .

1. Surging Waves

Surging waves don’t usually break as the water below them is very deep. These waves are very dangerous as they can knock swimmers over and drag them back out into the deep water. They also have the potential to pick up swimmers in very shallow, seemingly safe waters and dump them on the sand causing possible spinal or head injuries.

2. Spilling Waves

Spilling waves usually have less force and are the safest for body surfing. They are usually found in sheltered bays where the sea floor slopes gradually and near sandbanks at high tide.

3. Plunging Waves aka Dumping Waves

These waves break suddenly and can throw you to the bottom with great force. Plunging or dumping waves also cause rip currents to form. These waves usually occur at low tide and where sandbanks are shallow and can cause injuries to swimmers, particularly spinal and head injuries.

Never try and bodysurf on a dumping wave when ocean swimming .

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