Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. The U.S. Lifesaving Association reports 80 percent of all surf rescues are related to rip currents.

On many beaches, rip currents are present every day. In most cases, rip current speeds are too slow to be a danger to most swimmers.

However, when wave conditions, shape of the offshore beach and tide elevation are just right, rip current speeds can reach speeds faster than Michael Phelps can swim.

On this page, find information about North Carolina Sea Grant’s rip current research using data-logging drifters along with a collection of rip current safety resources.

Scientists from the UNC Coastal Studies Institute and Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue used flourescein dye to track rip currents within the surf zone. Video by John McCord of the Coastal Studies Institute, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Today.

Rip Current Products

Metal Sign

Rip current sign.

These rip current signs provide guidance for swimming safety. Click image for larger view.

This metal sign provides tips on identifying, avoiding and escaping dangerous rip currents. This aluminum sign, similar in size to ‘No Parking’ signs (12″ x18″), has precut holes and identifies the National Weather Service’s online rip current forecasting program.
Download the rip current sign: English | Bilingual. Order the metal sign (English, Spanish or bilingual).


This brochure includes illustrations and tips for identifying and escaping these natural hazards.
Request copies of the brochure.


The 5″x7″ magnet contains tips on identifying, avoiding and escaping dangerous rip currents.
Download the rip current brochure: English. Order the magnet (English only).

To learn more about the ongoing national Break the Rip of the Grip campaign and rip current safety, visit

North Carolina Sea Grant Rip Current Research

News Releases

Adults and children standing on beach in front of rip current.

Rip currents are strong currents moving away from shore. Photo by Dave Elder.

June 22, 2017 Media Advisory: Rip Currents Safety for 2017 Beach Season

North Carolina Sea Grant offers some resources to keep beachgoers safe this summer, including beach updates from the National Weather Service and rip current survival tips.

June 2, 2016 NC, SC Observe Rip Current Awareness Week, June 5-11

North Carolina Sea Grant and the NOAA’s National Weather Service to raise awareness of rip currents.

May 19, 2015 Rip Current Safety Highlighted for Summer Beach Season

As Memorial Day approaches, a busy beach season is on the horizon. So, too, is Rip Current Preparedness Week, which kicks off June 7.

May 19, 2015 Beach Safety: Rip Current Tips and Educational Materials

Folks heading to the beach this summer should be aware of the potential for rip currents. National Weather Service officials report one fatality due to rip currents along our coast in 2014, and a total of at least 58 deaths since 2000. Stay safe with these rip current tips and educational materials.

July 22, 2014 NC Sea Grant, Partners Explore Rip Currents

A team of researchers, based at the North Carolina Sea Grant office at the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Marine Science, is deploying data-logging drifters to document the velocity, circulation and ejection frequency of rip currents.

May 27, 2014 Governor Proclaims NC Rip Current Awareness Week

In the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed June 1-7, 2014 as “Rip Current Awareness Week.”

Coastwatch Magazine

A drifter about to be deployed on Carolina Beach. Photo by Rebecca Nagy.

Coastwatch Currents

North Carolina Sea Grant’s rip current research has been highlighted in our blog, Coastwatch Currents.

Rip Currents in the News

Rip Current Partners

Partners for North Carolina Sea Grant research include the UNCW Center for Marine Science; NWS Wilmington Forecast Office; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; ocean rescue programs in Carolina Beach; Wrightsville Beach, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk; UNCW Surf Club; Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association; Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach; CB Surf Shop in Carolina Beach and the University of New South Wales.