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Bottom’s Up: How To Choose Where To Swim At The Beach

By Dan Hutton on February 4, 2016 in

Photo: Tom Current

Photo: Tom Current

Have you ever wondered why different sections of water on the same beach can look so different?

Well, it’s quite simple: what you see on the surface of the water is, for the most part, determined by what’s happening underneath.

If the tide was to retreat, say, 100 metres, you’d get a fantastic view of the undulating seafloor with its higher sandbanks and lower channels.

As waves roll in from the deep ocean, they interact with the sandbanks and channels in different ways.

Waves will break with more consistency over the shallow sandbanks, and the water in the waves will move towards the beach. This makes it a safer place to swim.

There will be less or no wave activity in the channels, where the waves sink down into the deeper water and are met by a current returning to sea between the sandbanks.

From the beach, you’ll be able to pick the sandbanks and channels (rip currents) by looking for wave activity, or inactivity, and this will help you choose where to swim.

While most beachgoers should only swim on the sandbanks for safety (this is where you’ll find the red and yellow flags), smart ocean swimmers will use the channels to swim out to sea with the rip current, and use the sandbanks to return to the beach with the waves.

We do a great sand modelling session in our ocean swimming clinics to teach you this, and more. Visit for more info.