Ricochet News

NSRI warns of stronger rip currents at the coast this festive season

DECEMBER 7, 2015
NSRI warns of stronger rip currents at the coast this festive season

After the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) dealt with a number of incidents across the country over this past weekend, the organisation is urging the public to be extra cautious around water and around the coast during the festive season and to be aware of rip currents and particularly the Full Moon and New Moon Spring Tides that cause stronger than normal rip currents around the coast and to have safety top of mind during the festive season vacation.

"At all times bathers and anglers should be aware of high tide, low tide and the resultant rip-currents that form constantly, often at different places along the shore-line," warns the NSRI.

"Sadly rip currents are the greatest cause of drowning accidents around the South African coastline."

Rip currents are a river of water flowing out to sea against the incoming waves and are caused when the waves reach the shore-line rip currents allow water to be dispersed back into the ocean.

Bathers and shoreline anglers are most at risk during a Spring Tide and extreme caution is advised:

Spring Tide happens twice every month, at full moon and at new moon.Spring Tides bring a higher than normal high tide and a lower than normal low tide, causing stronger than normal rip currents, for a few days leading up to the full moon OR new moon, peaking on the day of the full moon OR new moon and lasting for a few days after the full moon OR new moon.

There are two high tides and two low tides every day. During Spring Tide the twice daily high tides are higher than normal and the twice daily low tides are lower than normal and while rip currents are always present the Spring Tide creates stronger than normal rip currents.

Spring Tide lasts for a few days leading up to the full or new moon, peak on the day of the full or new moon, and last for a few days after the full or the new moon.

Rip Currents are caused when the water reaching the shoreline in waves, swells and sea currents needs to find a way to retreat back into the sea and this is achieved in rip currents (a river of water retreating through the incoming swells back out into the sea).

There are two types of rip currents, permanent rip currents, found alongside islands, rocky outcrops jutting into the sea, at river mouths, in between reefs and alongside harbour walls and piers, are found constantly occurring in the same place allowing the water reaching the shoreline to retreat back into the sea in the permanent rip current.

Temporary rip currents, found along beach fronts (along the shoreline), are forever changing their position and are unpredictable and can form suddenly along a beach front without warning at different places along the shore front throughout the day. During Spring Tide these permanent rip currents and temporary rip currents are stronger than normal and although rip currents at all times pose a danger to bathers they pose the greatest danger during the Spring Tide.

Rip Currents form at different places along the shoreline constantly throughout the day.

Bathers are at risk of being swept out to sea by rip currents while swimming or wading in water along the beach front. Even bathers wading in shallow water who find themselves trapped in a rip current that forms suddenly are at risk of being swept out to sea by rip currents.

Bathers caught in a rip current should not panic. Simply stay afloat by treading water (moving your arms and legs in circular movements), don’t try to swim against the current as it will only cause you exhaustion and let the current sweep you out to sea but at your first opportunity swim parallel to the beach front until you are free of the rip current and then use the incoming waves to get back to shore.

While this is happening scream for help and wave your arm to alert people on the beach to raise the alarm.

If you are taking the family to the beach please go to beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty. Identify where the lifeguards are on the beach, show your children, and if you need help approach the lifeguards who will help you.

Swim within the safe swimming demarcated zones the lifeguards place on the beach using their red and yellow flags.

Lifeguards are looking out for where rip currents are forming and will ask bathers to move to between their red/yellow flags for the bathers own safety if they detect rip-currents forming where the bathers are swimming.

Do not drink alcohol if you are going swimming or boating.

Your swimming pool at home should be surrounded by a cloak of safety and children should not swim unless they are supervised by a responsible adult.

Swimming in rivers, at river mouths, in dams, lagoons and lakes extreme caution should be observed at all times in these areas particularly where river currents, incoming and outgoing tides and the flow of water can be dangerous to bathers.

Anglers fishing along the shoreline, particularly along rocks on the shoreline, are at greatest risk during the Spring Tide where incoming waves during the high tides engulf higher than normal over rocks. Anglers should not turn their back to the sea and should be vigilant and cautious of the wave action at all times while fishing.

Boaters, paddlers, sail boarders and anyone launching any kind of craft onto water should wear their life-jackets at all times while on water and carry easily accessible safety equipment – red distress flares, communications cellphone or VHF radio with fully charged batteries in water tight plastic sleeves, a waterproof torch, highly visible neon coloured clothing, a referee whistle worn around the neck, a signalling mirror or CD disc (to use to shine against the sun) and let a responsible person know your time of departure, your exact intended route and your estimated return time and check in with the responsible person on your safe return. (If you are overdue the responsible person should raise the alarm without hesitation).

If your craft capsizes stay with the floating craft. Do not try to swim ashore. Use your emergency capsize kit to recover safety equipment, set off red distress flares and phone for help.

The NSRI wish everyone a safe summer season.

To call Sea Rescue in a sea rescue emergency phone 112 from a cellphone.


SMS 32287 (R1/SMS) with your name and a message of support for our Sea Rescue crew.

Safety tips can be viewed on our web site at www.nsri.org.za