Perceptions of rip current myths from the central south coast of England

Shari L. Gallop*, Eleanor Woodward, Robert W. Brander, Sebastian J. Pitman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Rip currents (rips) are the global leading cause of fatalities on surf beaches, yet numerous long-standing misconceptions exist. Evidence of the prevalence of these myths is largely anecdotal. This opportunistic, exploratory study presents perceptions on rip current hazards (n = 187), of members of the public attending an open day at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The survey was undertaken as a fun but informative quiz, aimed at families attending the research-facility. It also explored using such events as a conduit to gain valuable knowledge on the understanding of rip currents and other hazards. While most respondents (81%) knew appropriate escape strategies (swim parallel and stay afloat), only 11% identified what makes rips dangerous (panic), with 44% incorrectly saying that rips suck you under. Rip identification is poor, and many are unaware of the meaning of beach safety flags. This study identifies that safety communication messaging needs to focus on debunking rip current myths, to improve understanding of safe swimming areas; and to reduce panic if caught in a rip.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Rip currents
  • Coastal hazards
  • Drowning
  • Surf rescue
  • Beach safety management


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