A rise in coastal drowning deaths and more than 200 rescues already this season have prompted Life Saving Victoria to produce an aerial video demonstration on how to identify a rip current.
A dye was released into the ocean at Cape Woolamai from the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter on 9 January, to highlight where the rip current is.
The exercise was done on the first anniversary of a double drowning at the beach, where a group of beach-goers got into trouble in knee-deep water after getting caught in a rip.
Life Saving Victoria Operations Manager Greg Scott said the rip dye footage shows how dangerous rip currents can be.
“Rips can occur at all beach locations, including bays and they are the number one beach hazard for swimmers,’’ Mr Scott said.
“Recent research by Surf Life Saving Australia found that 75 per cent of people can’t identify a rip current.
“Furthermore, two out of three people who think they can spot a rip, actually can’t.”
He said some key signs to identify a rip include deeper darker water, fewer breaking waves, sandy coloured water extending beyond the surf zone and debris or seaweed.
“If you are caught in a rip current, try to stay calm and conserve your energy,’’ Mr Scott said.
“We suggest you attract attention by calling out to seek help and either float with the current or swim parallel to the beach. Reassess the situation – if what you’re doing isn’t working, try another option in your attempt to return to shore.”
A new advertising campaign by Surf Life Saving Australia this season is working to address the many myths and misbeliefs about rip currents.
Many people think it’s just tourists and poor swimmers who get caught in rips currents.
In fact, it’s young men aged 15-39 years who are most likely to die in rips.
The best way to avoid a rip is to swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.