Rip current survivors needed to help with RNLI research

Rips are strong currents running out to sea that can easily take swimmers from shallow water, out beyond their depth. They are especially powerful in larger surf, but are also found around river mouths, estuaries, and man-made structures like piers and groynes

The RNLI has appealed for people rescued from rip currents to help with “potentially lifesaving” research. The lifeboat charity is working alongside the University of Plymouth to establish how people behave when caught in a rip current. The research is designed to help the RNLI teach people the best ways to avoid getting caught in one.

Last year, rip currents were the cause of 38% of sea-based incidents the charity’s lifeguards responded to.

Adam Wooler, RNLI head of coastal safety and research, said: “Rip currents are consistently one of the biggest causes of incidents that the RNLI’s lifeguards deal with each year.”But very little is currently known about how people react when they become caught in one, which means it’s difficult to know how to educate people to avoid getting caught in one in the first place.”

Quantitative research will take the form of an online survey, which the RNLI & the University of Plymouth recently launched for anyone who has ever been caught in a rip current. It will ask about swimming ability, where the rip experience took place, and how the respondent reacted and escaped. Take the survey at rnli.org.uk/ripsurvey.

The RNLI and the University of Plymouth have are also researching the physical characteristics of rip currents, to help develop models to predict when and where rip currents are likely to occur. Empirical research using cameras, GPS equipment, and speed meters have been set up at Perranporth, one of the UK’s most popular surfing beaches on the north coast of Cornwall, to study the tides under a range of conditions. The drifters are released and their progress tracked to ascertain how rip currents work.

This data is used as part of a wider experiment to gain a greater understanding for beach safety advice and lifeguard operations. Related Internet links: