Beach safety – rip currents

There are a huge variety of beaches in Pembrokeshire, each with their own special character. Whether you’re swimming, surfing or taking part in some other watersport, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of the sea.

Most folk using our beaches are probably aware that there might be currents & rips and know the action to take if we found ourselves caught in one, but too many of us probably wouldn’t be able to spot a rip & avoid it in the first place.

What is a rip?

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water that can form at any beach, usually at breaks in sandbars or near piers or other structures, that drain the water brought in by waves away from the shore & out to sea. The speed & power of a rip will increase as waves increase (in size and/or in frequency), and depending on the tide.

Some rips form & disappear during a tide cycle, so it’s important to keep checking

What does a rip look like?

Rips may have one or more of the following visual clues:

  • darker water, indicating a deeper area of water
  • murky brown water caused by sand stirred up by faster-moving water
  • patches of sea with a different appearance, such as:
    • a choppy or rippled look, when the water around is generally calm
    • in large surf, a smoother surface with much smaller waves
    • an area with few breaking waves on a beach with surf at that time
  • foam or debris floating out to sea

Rips can form & disappear as the tide changes, so keep an eye out before & during your time in the water. And if you do get caught in a rip, remember to swim parallel to the beach, towards breaking waves. You can then use the waves to return to the shore.

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