Our Stories

Changing Tides: The National Weather Service and Rip Current Safety

Changing Tides: The National Weather Service and Rip Current Safety

By Emily Senesac (emily.senesac@noaa.gov)

Though it’s called “fun in the sun” for a reason, ocean safety is important to keep in mind during a day at the beach. Even the strongest, most experienced swimmer can fall victim to a powerful rip current. 

In the spring of 2003, with the intention of creating a standardized, wide-reaching approach to rip current safety, the National Rip Current Messaging Team was established. Led by the Rip Current Program within the Marine and Coastal Weather Services Branch (now Marine, Tropical and Tsunami Services Branch) of the NWS, the team was made up of both federal and non-federal coastal scientists, lifeguards, and communication specialists.

The task at hand was to develop a national awareness campaign involving graphics, slogans, safety materials, websites, and various other messaging strategies to educate beach-goers on the dangers of rip currents. With this awareness campaign came the development of a national trademark, and the “Break the Grip of the Rip!®” campaign was born. In addition to this first group, a second Rip Current Technical-Science Team was formed and tasked with researching the scientific characteristics of rip currents to help increase forecaster understanding of how to predict them. 

Over the years, the campaign has continued to expand, and has come to include an even wider variety of safety materials: video Public Service Announcements, digital educational modules, an updated website, and participation in safety workshops, to name a few. Today, the pivotal “Break the Grip of the Rip!®” campaign is proud to provide content in multiple languages, presentations by experts on rip current science and safety, local beach forecasts, online training, and more. 

The “Break the Grip of the Rip!®” campaign has saved countless lives and protected beachgoers for more than 15 years. 

Additional Reading: