Beachgoers' beliefs and behaviours in relation to beach flags and rip currents

This study has been carried out by Shauna Sherker, Ann Williamson, Julie Hatfield, Rob Brander, Andrew Hayen, and published in Accident Analysis and Prevention,  2010; 42(6): 1785-1804.

From the abstract:

The aim of this research was to assess the beliefs and behaviours of beachgoers in relation to beach flags and rip currents. This research has been carried out by interviewing beachgoers at beaches in New South Wales about their swimming beliefs and behaviours. They were asked to indicate on pictures depicting beach scenarios involving beach flags and fixed rip currents, where they would and would not swim. Logistic regression analysis was undertaken to determine predictors of correct and incorrect swimming behaviour.

The results were that:

Beachgoers aged from 30 to 49 years are less likely to choose to swim between the flags than other swimmers. Though they may not necessarily be swimming in the rip. Swimming outside of the flags may be linked with experience.

Beachgoers who are at the beach with children are significantly more likely to choose to swim between the flags.

Beachgoers with basic knowledge about rip currents are significantly more likely to swim away from the rip.

Conclusion is that basic rip current knowledge is an essential component in developing national interventions aimed at reducing coastal drowning. Beachgoers clearly need to know what a rip looks like in order to actively avoid swimming in it.

So far the abstract of the article.

The findings of this study are limited as the study investigates only behavioural intentions. Ideally an observational study of people swimming at the beach is warranted to determine risk factors for swimming in a rip. Also the presence of people swimming may influence the swim location choice, which factor was not present in this study as it used still photos.  

SCT would like the same type of study to be carried out at different beaches all over the world, as sea or ocean conditions vary a lot, as well as many other factors as education and culture, as only a small portion of beaches are patrolled or supervised, in order to implement the most suitable drowning prevention strategies to target  those swimmers who are most at risk so they make the correct swim location choice.