Public Education

Dangerous 2-3 foot surf

Permanent rip currents often form along jetties, such as pictured above. This is why lifeguards ask swimmers to not swim near jetties.  Credit: C. Johnson

Permanent rip currents often form along jetties, such as the one (above) in Ocean Beach, San Diego. Credit: C. Johnson

Did you know that most rip current rescues happen when the wave sets are only 2 to 3 feet?

People are lulled into a false sense of security when the surf is small and panic when caught in a rip. It’s a deadly mix.

There have already been 23 reported rip current drownings in the United States and Puerto Rico this season, according to USLA lifeguards. Luckily, none have been in California.

With summer upon us, lifeguards are asking Sea Grant and NOAA to remind swimmers to:

  • check the weather and marine forecast before going to the beach;
  • swim only at lifeguarded beaches;
  • ask lifeguards about the surf conditions, and
  • take heed of rip current and other warning signs posted at the beach.

Read more about how to spot and escape rip currents:

Break the Grip of the Rip

3 Myths about Rips

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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