Waves & rips
Flags & signs
Swimmers should be aware of the various types of waves and tides to help ensure they enjoy the beach more safely. When large surf or other dangerous conditions affect the coastline, Surf Life Saving will generally send out a warning asking beach goers to ensure they stay only in patrolled swimming areas.
Surging waves may never actually break as they approach the water's edge, as the water below them is very deep.
These waves are very dangerous as they can knock swimmers over and drag them back into deep water.
Spilling waves usually have less force and are the safest for body surfing.
They are usually found in sheltered bays where the sea floor slopes gradually and near sandbanks at high tide.
PLUNGING or DUMPING WAVES
These waves break suddenly and can throw you to the bottom with great force. Plunging or dumping waves also cause rip currents to form.
These waves usually occur at low tide and where sandbanks are shallow and can cause injuries to swimmers, particularly spinal and head injuries. Never try and bodysurf on a dumping wave!
Tips for large surf conditions:
- Always swim between the red and yellow flags.
- If the red flag is displayed, the beach is closed for swimmers.
- Swimmers should avoid creek and river mouths as currents are often stronger when large surf is running.
- Only experienced board riders should go out in these conditions.
- Surfers should always surf with a partner.
- When the surf increases it is a timely reminder for people to continue to keep their safety in mind.
- When very large surf pounds the coast it is vital that anyone heading to the coast remembers to swim only in patrolled areas.
- It is so important that people heed this safety warning, and if beaches are closed to stay out of the water and listen to the advice of the surf lifesavers and lifeguards.
- If the beaches are closed, a red flag will fly and lifesavers will remain on the beach to encourage people to stay out of the water.
- When the surf increases, particularly when cyclone activity is present off Australia, board riders are also very keen to enjoy the conditions.
- Board riders of course cannot go in patrolled areas, so we urge only experienced riders to take on the surf and always stay with a friend and near a patrolled location.
- When the surf conditions are dangerous, it is also important that people stay away from river mouths and estuaries where strong currents can be present.
Spotting Rips-Identifying a rip can be very difficult. Common signs:
- Murky brown water, caused by sand stirred up by water movement.
- Foam on the surface and extending beyond the break.
- Waves breaking on both sides of the rip, but not inside the rip.
- A choppy, rippled effect on the surface of the water.
- Water often appears darker, indicating deeper water.
What do do if caught in a RIP-Obey the three R’s:
RELAX: Stay calm and float, do not swim against the current swim across it.
RAISE: Raise an arm to signal for help.
RESCUE: Float and wait for assistance. Do not panic - people drown in rips because they panic. Obey directions from the rescuer.
What are King Tides?
- The king tides cause large movements of water and generally add to the unstable conditions.
- Large surf and dangerous rips usually present on all open stretches of beach.
- Areas most dangerous during these conditions are beaches affected by river systems, such as Maroochydore, Caloundra, Noosa, Tallebudgera, and Currumbin.
- Beaches that do not have river mouths close by remain unstable when the large swell pushes through, causing large flash rips to appear on the beaches.
- Rips are intensified in the outgoing tide, and with the influence of the king tides, rips are more severe.
- It is vital that people do not become complacent in the surf during king tide conditions.
- During king tides it is so important for people to swim only in patrolled areas, and not be tempted to go for a swim at an unpatrolled beach.
- With the king tides present, it is also important to show extreme caution at beaches that have river mouths nearby. It only takes a few seconds for a current to sweep a swimmer into deeper water and get into trouble.
- If swimmers do get into trouble in a current, they should remain calm, float out with the current, and then swim across the current parallel to shore, before swimming back to the beach. They should also raise one arm to signal for help from a lifesaver or lifeguard on patrol.