Abstract

Leatherman, S.P., 2012. Undertow, rip current, and riptide.

Undertow, rip current, and riptide are terms used to describe a variety of currents, all of which have different characteristics. However, much of the general public, news media, and even dictionary definitions confuse and misidentify these potential hazards at surf beaches. Many beachgoers use the terms interchangeably, when in fact they are distinctly different hazards. Furthermore, undertow, rip currents, and riptides occur for different reasons at different locations along the beach. Avoiding each of them and escaping their grip requires different strategies. Three-quarters of a century has passed since this issue was last addressed in the scientific literature, and rip currents are recently receiving much more attention by scientists and the general public because of a steady rate of fatalities, making this a timely issue.

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