Perception of the rip current hazard on Galveston Island and North Padre Island, Texas, USA Academic Article uri icon


  • The hazard posed by a rip current depends in part on the ability of beach users to identify a rip current and to associate surf conditions with the potential for rip currents. Understanding which visual features beach users associated with rip currents is an important step in the development of appropriate programs and educational materials aimed at improving the ability of beach users to identify a rip current. A face-to-face survey (n = 392) was conducted to assess the ability of beach users to identify a rip current using five near eye-level photographs that simulate the view of the beach and surf zone as the respondent approached the beach. The survey was conducted on three heavily used public beaches in Texas (Galveston, Port Aransas, and Corpus Christi) at the height of the summer beach season in 2012. Only 13 % of respondents correctly selected the photograph showing the most hazardous conditions and correctly identified the precise location of the rip current on the photograph. The majority of beach users (87 %) incorrectly indicated that the photograph with the heaviest surf represented the most hazardous surf conditions and greatest potential for the development of rip currents, or failed to identify rip currents in photographs. Respondents who were able to correctly identify the rip current tended to recognize the breaking wave pattern, areas of darker water, or the proximity to structures as key visual characteristics of rip currents and also had higher self-reported abilities to swim in rough water and escape a rip current. 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Brannstrom, C., Trimble, S., Santos, A., Brown, H. L., & Houser, C.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Brannstrom, Christian||Trimble, Sarah||Santos, Anna||Brown, Heather Lee||Houser, Chris

publication date

  • June 2014