Public Education

Watch: rip current in wave tank

All during Rip Current Awareness Week, we’ve been looking at rip currents in the real ocean, where real people are at risk of drowning if they get caught in a rip and panic. 

Below is a video of a rip current made in a wave tank at the University of Delaware. Floating particles and different dyes were added to the water to help visualize the rip’s path. Check it out. It’s only 54 seconds. But, it shows all the basics of how a rip current forms and why you should never fight the ocean.

Many take-home lessons of the “break the grip of the rip” campaign are observable in the wave tank video. You might notice:

  • The rip current is located in a channel where there is a break in the incoming waves.
  • The rip current is broad at its base, relatively narrow and fast-moving through the surf zone, and mushrooms and dies past the breaking surf.
  • There is a very weak return current over the sandbar.

Did anything surprise you in the video?

Remember, stay calm in the ocean under all conditions. Never panic. Learn more about rip currents:

Break the Grip of the Rip

Three Myths about Rip Currents

Pop Quiz: Can You Find the Rip?


NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program is a statewide, multi-university program of marine research, extension services, and education activities administered by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. It is one of 33 Sea Grant programs and is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce. Visit our website ( to sign up for email news or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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