Rip Currents, Waves and Tides

Here is some general information about currents, waves and tides. Use this information to stay safe when entering the water.

Rip Currents

Rip currents are areas of water rushing back out to sea which can quickly take you from shallow water to deep water. Currents are especially powerful in larger surf, but are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.

They can catch even the most experienced beachgoers out, so don’t be afraid to ask lifeguards for advice. They will show you how you can avoid rips, but if you do get caught in one:

  • Stay calm – don’t panic
  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim
  • Keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float
  • Raise your hand and shout for help
  • Never try to swim directly against the rip or you’ll get exhausted
  • Swim parallel to the beach until free of the rip, then make for shore

If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.


Waves are great fun, but they can be dangerous. They will have different characteristics depending on the beach and conditions – understanding how they work will keep you safer.
Waves are formed by the wind blowing across the surface of the sea. How steeply a beach slopes (or ‘shelves’) will also affect the size and type of wave.

Spilling waves – Spilling waves are ideal for beginner board riders as they break consistently. Start off in the shallow white water before progressing to deeper water and unbroken waves.

Dumping waves – Dumping waves or plunging waves should be avoided. These waves break quickly with a lot of force making them dangerous for beginners.

Surging wave – This wave may never actually break as it approaches the water’s edge.This is because it is very deep beneath the wave and the wave does not lose speed nor gain height.


Tide effect is due to the sun and the moon moving around the earth. The greatest effect is called a “spring” tide, and the least a “neap” tide. The range between low and high water can be upto 9 meters. Generally seas reach their highest and lowest levels on the shore twice a day with an average interval between low tides of 12 hours 25 minutes.

Tidal cut off for people can be critical. At mid tide the water may rise at 1.5 meters in 30 minutes. Storm force onshore winds can substantially increase tidal levels.

The tide state will also affect local current and wave conditions. Always check the tide before going to the beach by checking online, reading local signs or asking a lifeguard.