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Beginners Guide To Surfing: Rip Currents

Kahaluu Bay from the air

The rip current on the north side of Kahaluu Bay can be very strong during periods of high surf.

Rip currents can be a very dangerous threat to any surfer or swimmer. A rip current is when water flows out to sea at a very strong rate. It is almost impossible to swim against a rip current, which makes them particularly dangerous for beginner surfers and weak swimmers. It is important to know how to identify, avoid and escape a rip current in order to prevent being swept out to sea.

How Rip Currents are Formed

Rip currents are usually formed when there are high surf conditions however rip currents can exist during small surf as well. When waves crash on the shoreline the receding water travels back into the ocean. This receding water can erode away sand or rock creating a path of least resistance. When there are high h surf conditions, the large amount of receding water creates strong rip currents that head out to sea.


How to Escape a Rip Current

How to Escape a Rip Current

How To Indentify  and Avoid Rip Currents

Rip currents can be identified by a channel of choppy water with little to no breaking waves. This channel can be very narrow or very wide depending on the size of the surf. Usually rip currents are the biggest and strongest during high surf conditions.

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult for the average beachgoer to spot a rip current.Surfers and swimmers should check for any “High Surf” or Strong Current” flags put up by local lifeguards. These usually indicate that a strong or dangerous rip current is present and you should exercise extreme caution when entering the water. Remember, when in doubt, don’t go out.

How To Escape a Rip Current

The most important thing to remember when caught in a rip current is not to panic. If you are on a surfboard, stay on your board. You have a better chance of getting to safety paddling with a surfboard than without.Swim or paddle parallel to the shoreline. Eventually you will swim out of the rip current and into a safe area where the current is not so strong. From this point you can swim towards the beach. Never swim against a rip current. This will only use up more energy and decrease your chances of safely paddling out of a rip current. Not even the strongest swimmer in the world can swim against a strong rip current.

The rip current at Kahaluu Bay in Kona, Hawaii can be very dangerous during periods of high surf. We strongly advise beginner surfers to use extreme caution when surfing here. If you would like to surf when the waves in Kona are big, we recommend taking a surf lesson with us. Our knowledgable surf instructors help you to locate, identify and avoid the strong rip current here while still catching some amazing waves.


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