Tide rips can either scare some folks or get others stoked. They’re formed from surface or undersea current colliding with sea mounts which push the current to the surface creating confused waves. The pic here shows a tide rip off Pt Wilson in Port Townsend, WA. You can hear the tide rips sometimes from a mile away – waves crashing and rolling about.
Rip Tides, or Surf Rips are different – these form in surf zones on beaches where water rushes out in a sand channel back to sea, often taking unsuspecting people with it.
For beginners with few rough water skills, rips can throw you off balance as waves come in from all sides. The key is to avoid them and if you can’t, keep you paddle in the water at all times and use short quick s strokes to maintain your stability. Sitting down will lower your center of gravity making it easier to get through. For those into the ‘stand like a man’ thing, well, have fun!
In the case of this rip, it’s on the north side of a point of land with current ripping around the point at high speeds. This is a rip that requires some thinking before you enter. Scout each rip and determine your entry and exit plan. What if you can’t get out of it and are swept around the point? Can you portage back over the point to your car or can have someone pick you up? If so, bring a cell phone in a wp bag as a backup. The current on this day around Pt Wilson was so strong you wouldn’t be able to paddle against it, but a portage would’ve worked.
To avoid such places, bring a tide and current book for that area and plan around strong tides, or work with the current to let it push your to your destination. Have lunch downstream then when the tide reverses (usually 6hrs), take the tide back to your starting point.
Also wind opposing current can make some big waves and increase wave size in a rip. Boat wakes can also build large waves in a rip. On this day, a cruise ship passed which built these waves to nearly 4′-5′ faces.
If you do have surfing, river, and strong rough water skills, tide rips can be a lot of fun. They’re essentially standing waves – fully surfable.
Terms to know:
ebb – outgoing tide
flood – incoming tide
tide chart – vertical measurement of water, up and down.
current chart – horizontal flow of water. for areas of strong current.
eddy – in the case of Pt Wilson, a large eddy formed behind the point – or opposite side of where curent is coming in from creating a big swirl of recirculating current. Learn how to use this to your advantage and know when to avoid it.
portage – walking around or in this case over an obstacle.