Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore. When strong winds blow toward the shore, waves are formed that move large amounts of water toward the shore. One common way that rip currents form is when water becomes trapped behind sand bars. Sand bars lie parallel and close to the shore. At some point, the pressure of the water against the sand bar may cut a narrow channel through it. The channel is usually no more than 20 yards wide and water rushes back out to sea through it. That rapidly moving water is called a rip current.
Visitors to Florida’s beaches are often inexperienced swimmers or non-swimmers who are not familiar with rip currents. You can review additional safety tips and check surf zone forecasts at NOAA’s National Weather Service website.