Rip Current Safety Information

Rip Currents: Break the Grip of the Rip!

California Coast Beach Visitors: Beware of Potentially Deadly Rip Currents

A number of people have drowned in the Pacific Ocean, and experts believe a majority of these deaths probably happened because people panicked when a rip current pulled them from shore. Nationally, lifeguards rescue approximately 60,000 people from drowning a year, and an estimated 80 percent are caused by rip currents.

Signs That a Rip Current May Be Present

  • A break in the incoming wave pattern
  • A channel of churning, choppy water
  • A line of foam or debris moving seaward\
  • A difference in water color

If Caught In a Rip Current

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t fight the current
  • Swim in a direction following the shoreline (parallel to the shore)
  • Float or tread water if you’re unable to escape by swimming. When the current weakens, swim at an angle (away from the current) toward shore.
  • If you cannot reach shore, draw attention to yourself. Face the shore, call or wave for help.

Helping Someone Else

  • Many people have died while trying to rescue others caught in rip currents.
  • Don’t become a victim yourself. If a lifeguard is not present, shout directions
    on how to escape the current.
  • If possible, throw something that floats to the rip current victim. Call 911.

Water Safety

An estimated 100 people drown from rip currents annually—more people than are killed by tornadoes or lightning.


Permission to Reprint
The rip currents brochure and signs on this Web site are the product of a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA). These materials represent a dedicated effort to raise awareness of rip currents and to standardize the educational message. These materials may be reprinted in their entirety, at no cost to NOAA or USLA and without permission. The steep beach signs were created by the California State Parks, Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a Sonoma County nonprofit that supports state parks; and California Sea Grant, a university-based program of NOAA