Watch: Rip current in wave tank

June 07, 2013
Media Contact— Caitlin Coomber / ccoomber@ucsd.edu / 858-534-0580

All during Rip Current Awareness Week, we’ve been looking at rip currents in the real ocean, where real people are at risk of drowning if they get caught in a rip and panic. 

Below is a video of a rip current made in a wave tank at the University of Delaware. Floating particles and different dyes were added to the water to help visualize the rip’s path. Check it out. It’s only 54 seconds. But, it shows all the basics of how a rip current forms and why you should never fight the ocean.

Many take-home lessons of the “break the grip of the rip” campaign are observable in the wave tank video. You might notice:

  • The rip current is located in a channel where there is a break in the incoming waves.

  • The rip current is broad at its base, relatively narrow and fast-moving through the surf zone, and mushrooms and dies past the breaking surf.

  • There is a very weak return current over the sandbar.

Did anything surprise you in the video?

Remember, stay calm in the ocean under all conditions. Never panic.

Written by Christina Johnson

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.