Swimming in South African oceans? How to Spot a Rip Current.

As international tourists and South Africans from around the country head to the coast for their summer holidays, the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) has released a selection of photographs to show swimmers exactly what rip currents look like. And even if you’re a seasoned swimmer – it’s worth taking a look because sometimes the most tempting part of the ocean, where there are no waves…is actually the most dangerous.

Rip Current
A rip current from the air – the dark water between the waves. Picture by John Larter.

The NSRI advises that swimmers think of rip currents as “rivers of water that flow out to the back waves”.

Fatal Rip currents @ Jeffreys Bay,  Jan 2103. Photo: Marie-Louise Myburgh
Fatal Rip currents @ Jeffreys Bay, Jan 2103. Photo: Marie-Louise Myburgh

They emphasise that, if you’re going to swim in the sea, you should:

  • Remember that rip currents will not pull you under the water. Don’t panic, swim to the side and wave for help to escape a rip.
  • Look at the sea before you go for a swim – and look for the ‘river of water’ flowing out that will show you where the rip is.
  • Please choose to visit a beach where lifeguards are on duty, and swim between their flags.

If you have not seen the NSRI’s six minute video on rip currents, please scroll down.


Please see useful captions beneath each photo with tips on how to avoid the rip currents:

Rip Current
The dark water between waves is the rip.
Rip Current South Africa
Rips at Natures Valley shown from high. The many channels are clearly visible as the rips pull out at low tide. Picture by Torsten Henschel.
Rip Current South Africa
Rips at the Wilderness – the dark water flowing out is clearly visible. Picture Liza Wigley.
Rip Current South Africa
A rip – turquoise water – flows parallel to the beach before flowing out to sea. Picture Torsten Henschel.
Rip Current South Africa
A sign at Swartvlei beach warns of the danger of rip currents.

WATCH VIDEO: Break the Grip of the Rip

Learn what a rip current looks like, how to avoid them, what to do if you are caught in one … and what to do if you see someone else in difficulty.

Source: NSRI – click here for original article.