Each year, about five people die in rip currents on New Zealand beaches. Surf lifesavers say about 85 per cent – about 700 each year- of their rescues are due to rip currents.
So, researchers from the University of Canterbury are trying to better understand dangerous rip currents around New Zealand’s coasts.
They are tracking the currents using GPS-enabled surf zone “drifters”.
The drifters are designed to mimic someone floating in the water and the GPS provides information on current speed and circulation pattern.
The researchers hope that eventually they will be able to use their findings to provide better information to the public about beach hazards.
“If people arrive and a warning is shown about rip currents being particularly hazardous that day, they now have that information on hand to make an informed judgement on whether they really want to go into the water, and if they do, then to carefully consider where might be best to swim,” said Dr Seb Pitman, from the university, said.
What is a rip?
A rip is a body of water moving out to sea.
How to identify a rip
1. Calm patches in the surf with waves breaking each side
2. Rippled or
3. Discoloured water
4. Foamy water