Rip Current Experience Survey

Posted by Matt Warren on Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Have you ever been caught in a rip? This is one of the questions being asked in a new online survey about rip currents that aims to improve rip education and awareness and, in turn, save more Kiwi lives on the beach.

Every year beachgoers get into difficulty when they're caught in a rip. They have long been a hazard on New Zealand's beaches; they are estimated to account for approximately half of the 22 lives lost each year on the coastline and they are a key factor in over 52 percent of all rescues performed by Surf Lifeguards, amounting to on average 800 lives each year. However, these figures likely understate the scale of this problem with countless other rescues by members of the public going unreported.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand has developed The New Zealand Rip Current Experience Survey in collaboration with the University of New South Wales and Surf Life Saving Australia, following an extensive campaign in Australia which queried the general public on their knowledge and experiences of rip currents. Participants were asked to identify rip currents in beach photographs, detail how they would escape a rip and recount any rip current messages they may have heard.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Aquatic Risk Manager Nick Mulcahy says the idea of the survey is to gauge what the general public knows about rips, understand how they would respond if caught in one and assess how successful previous rip awareness campaigns have been. "The real value is in getting people to access the survey online and then using their responses to help shape rip campaigns in the future," he says.

Mr Mulcahy says educating the public about rip currents is vital to ensure that beachgoers can properly identify rip currents and know what to do when caught in one. "Education is a top priority for Surf Life Saving in our continuous effort to reduce the number of rip related drownings. Every summer we see thousands of beachgoers getting into trouble because they can't properly identify a rip current. We want to make sure everyone knows what a rip is so they can avoid them in the first place," he says.

University of New South Wales surf scientist Dr Rob Brander says rips have been studied for a long time but no one has ever asked those caught in rips about their experiences and how they think we may better educate and inform the general public. "This survey finally asks these questions and we hope to learn a lot from these people," he says.

To find out more information about rip currents, including how they work, how to identify them and what to do if caught in one, visit www.findabeach.co.nz/besafe/hazards/rips/ or watch this video.

To take part in the survey visit www.research.net/s/NZripcurrentsurvey.

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