Sixty-nine per cent of Australians are unable to identify a rip.
It’s a staggering statistic, but one that doesn’t surprise Surf Life Saving Illawarra president Val Zanotto.
“It would be great for everyone to really understand it [rip identification] properly, but it’s not necessarily that easy,” he said.
“If you're not a regular beachgoer, you can tend to be a little bit confused as to identifying a rip correctly.”
As hundreds of people flocked to the region’s beaches to beat Wednesday’s heat, many were likely unaware of the dangers posed by the ocean’s movement.
“Rips definitely are a problem, but if they swim between the flags they’ll have no issues,” he said.
There have been 16 swimming-related drownings in the Illawarra since 2005, with the most-recent at Puckey’s beach last year, according to Surf Life Saving NSW.
A SLSNSW spokesman said the “vast majority” of swimming incidents were the result of people getting into difficulty in a rip current.