Technology Teaches Us More About Rip Currents

Water Safety Ireland teamed up with BlueWise Marine to raise awareness on safety at the beach using technology called the MELOA WAVY Drifter. With help from members of the public, Water Safety Clare’s PWC team and Clare County Council, the drifters were deployed from the shore on Lahinch Beach on Saturday 18th September. Conditions were fair on the day with small-medium surf,  yet there was still enough movement to generate strong rip currents.

Five out of seven drifters were immediately swept across the beach (the south going feeder current was strong enough to move the drifters against a stiff north wind) and proceeded out to sea through the main rip current. Only one of the five was recycled back to shore, the other had to be collected past the breaking waves. The remaining 2 drifters (that did not initially make it out) were placed behind the breaking waves were quickly brought out to sea. Speeds, distance travelled, wave size etc are now being analysed by the BlueWise Marine Team.

The demonstration really highlights that rip currents are an ever present hazard on Irish surf beaches for swimmers, dippers, surfers and all beach users. A rip current is the recycling of wave energy back out to sea. The simple rule, “if there are waves there will be rips” applies. Swimming and staying within your depth where the waves are breaking are the simplest ways of avoiding rip currents.