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Updated Rip Current Survival Strategy

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of Public Relations, 708-903-0166
Bob Pratt, Executive Director of Education, 517-643-2553

Updated Rip Current Survival Strategy

Flip, Float, and Follow

An effective psychological tool to avoid panic in a terrifying situation

 GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) urges people and the media to learn, know, and share the updated Rip Current Survival Strategy titled, “Flip, Float, and Follow”.

“It is critical to understand what it means to flip, float and follow,” said David Benjamin, GLSRP executive director.  “It is an ordered task that can be an effective psychological tool to focus on in order to avoid panic in a terrifying situation.”

002-Flip Float and Follow Pic

“And the original rip current survival strategy, ‘Don’t panic and swim parallel to shore’, may not always work. ‘Don’t panic’ is not a helpful instruction to alleviate panic, and swimming parallel may not always work because longshore currents run parallel to shore and structural currents run parallel to the structures (piers, jetties, and rock walls). It’s best to assess which way the current is pulling you before your risk swimming against it.”

The “flip, float and follow” drowning survival campaign is the result of input from a variety of first responders and water safety groups that participated in the Great Lakes Water Safety Conference, sponsored by Michigan Sea Grant in 2011.

How to use the “Flip, Float, and Follow” Rip Current Survival Strategy – If you are ever caught in a rip current or other Dangerous Currents:

1. FLIP:
Flip over onto your back and float.

A. Float to keep your head above water.
B. Float to calm yourself down from the panic and fear of drowning.
C. Float to conserve your energy.

While you are floating, you are already following the current. Follow the current to assess which way it is pulling you. Then swim perpendicular to the currents flow until you are out of it and then swim toward shore. If you are too tired to swim to shore, continue to float and signal someone on shore for help. Also, the waves may eventually bring you back to shore.  

–As long as you are floating, you are alive (*cold water hypothermia may set in within one hour, so know the 1-10-1 Rule of Hypothermia, especially in spring, fall, and winter).

–As long as you are struggling or fighting the current, you are drowning – Conserve your energy and do not do the Signs of Drowning.  If you are too tired to swim to shore, continue floating and signal for help.

AGAIN – The original rip current survival strategy designed for ocean surf, “Don’t Panic. Swim Parallel to shore” ‘may’ not always be effective in the Great Lakes for two reasons:

1. “DON’T PANIC” – The instruction, “Don’t Panic”, is an ineffective strategy to avoid panic.

If you saw someone on fire, would you tell them, “Don’t panic”?  No. You would tackle them and say “stop, drop, and roll”. Stop, drop and roll are the ordered lifesaving ACTIONS to take in that situation.  So if someone is caught in a rip current, “Flip, Float, and Follow” – the lifesaving actions one can take to stay alive.  As long as you are floating, you are alive.  As long as you are floating, you are buying time for safe rescue.

2. “SWIM PARALLEL” – Swimming parallel ‘may’ not always work because Longshore Currents are parallel to shore and Structural Currents are parallel to the structure, jetties, piers, etc. 


The “Great Lakes Water Safety ” classes are for the average beach goers, surfers, lifeguards, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, water rescue team members, dive team members, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The classes teach participants how to:

  • Recognize the danger of the surf environment keeping personal safety as THE primary responsibility
  • Recognize the “Signs of Drowning” – How to identify a person in trouble from within a crowd.
  • Understand dangerous currents; i.e. how, where, and why dangerous currents occur
  • Use the “Flip, Float, and Follow” dangerous current survival strategy
  • Use a flotation device such as a throw ring, throw rope, rescue tube, surfboard or other objects that float to rescue a person in distress or in a dangerous current
  • React when encountering swimmers who have suffered an injury or unconscious
  • Enroll in lifesaving, first aid and CPR training from accredited agencies

Sun. June 23 Port Washington, WI – Public Class
Sat., July 6 – Sawyer, MI – Private Class at Bethany Beach
Sun., July 7 – Bridgman, MI – Public Class at WEKO Beach House

GLSRP Drowning Statistics
Like GLSRP’s FaceBook Page
Follow GLSRP on Twitter @ripcurrentsafeT


The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. (GLSRP) is about saving lives.  It is a nonprofit corporation that is a Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) that tracks drowning statistics, teaches “Great Lakes Water Safety” classes, and leads the “Third Coast Ocean Force” rip current awareness campaign on the Great Lakes.  Become a member of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

The GLSRP presented at the NDPA’s 12th Annual Symposium, March 14, 2013, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  It presented at the 2nd International Rip Current Symposium Nov. 1st, 2012 in Sydney, Australia; the 2012 winner of the “Outstanding Service to the Great Lakes Community” award presented by the Dairyland Surf Classic; the 2011 “Lifesaver of the Year” award winner; and presented at the NDPA’s 11th Annual Symposium in San Diego, March 9, 2012.


 SAFETY TIPS – What everyone should know before they put their toes on the beach: