Pull factor: Dr Rob Brander mapping the currents of rips at Bulli beach. Photo: Kirk Gilmour
Ocean rips kill more people in Australia on average each year than tropical cyclones, bushfires, floods and shark attacks combined.
Australia's top rip expert Rob Brander, of the University of NSW, analysed fatality figures from rips, natural disasters and shark attacks going back as far as 1852 to reveal the omnipresent danger of Australia's surf.
The study found that, on average, 21 people drown in rips around Australia each year, compared with eight killed in cyclones and six in bushfires.
When the data for 2004-11 was taken into account (the only years for which reliable rip fatality numbers are available), bushfires became the No.1 killer, claiming 27.1 lives a year. The higher bushfire death rate occurred because of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009, which killed 173 people.
Dr Brander said the number of confirmed rip deaths was probably an underestimate of the reality, because they were only confirmed when a witness described how the victim drowned.
''Unlike a disaster where there is a mass loss of life from one incident, rip currents do not have that shock value,'' Dr Brander said.
Dr Brander spent 2 weeks last season at our beach studying the tides, beach & rip patterns.