Case Study of Rip Current Knowledge amongst Students Participating in a Study Abroad Program


  • Chris Houser University of Windsor
  • Rob Brander UNSW Australia
  • Christian Brannstrom Texas A&M University
  • Sarah Trimble Texas A&M University
  • Jane Flaherty Texas A&M University



Rip current, Study abroad, Student safety, Natural hazard


Students studying abroad or participating in a foreign exchange often visit a beach during their time abroad, but little is known about their understanding of rip currents and other surf hazards, their behavior, their choices, or if they take precautions when visiting a beach. This study describes the results of a survey of Texas A&M University students who completed a study abroad program between May 2013 and May 2015. Results of the survey suggest that a majority of the students surveyed (~74%) visited at least one beach during their time abroad, and over 50% of students visited more than 2 beaches. The visit to the beach was optional for most of the respondents and most went as part of a group. Decisions about the beaches visited tended to be based on convenience and recommendations from other students, tourists, or locals, and were rarely based on safety. Results of this preliminary study point to a need for implementing proactive beach safety education programs for students studying abroad.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Chris Houser, University of Windsor

Dr. Houser's general areas of expertise are process geomorphology in coastal and aeolian environments, with a specific focus on the impact of extreme storms on barrier islands and the recovery of barrier islands following storms, as well as the physical and social nature of rip current hazards.

Rob Brander, UNSW Australia

Dr. Brander is a coastal geomorphologist with interests in the morphodynamics (hydrodynamics, sediment transport, morphology) of coastal systems. His past research has involved fieldwork in surf zones of sandy beaches and coral reef-island beaches and reef flats. More recently my interests have shifted towards combining a physical understanding of nearshore coastal processes with a social science approach to improve our understanding of common beach and surf hazards, such as rip currents. He also runs a successful community-based beach safety education program called ‘The Science of the Surf (SOS)’.

Christian Brannstrom, Texas A&M University

Dr. Brannstrom’s research focuses on social and political aspects of renewable energy and unconventional fossil fuels in Texas and environmental governance in Brazil, where he has conducted fieldwork since 1994.  He has supported collaborators working on perceptions of rip currents and pedagogical aspects of his study abroad experiences. 

Sarah Trimble, Texas A&M University

Ms. Trimble’s research focuses on advanced GIS/RS technologies and their use for mapping and modeling geomorphologic processes in coastal environments. Her dissertation project combines in-situ data, multispectral satellite imagery, and geocomputation to determine the spatio-temporal variation of rip current hazard exposures in Costa Rica and Australia.

Jane Flaherty, Texas A&M University

Jane Flaherty is the Director of the Study Abroad Programs Office at Texas A&M University


Anin Kumar SA, Prasad KV. Rip current-related fatalities in India: a new predictive risk scale for forecasting rip currents. Natural Hazards. 2014 Jan 1;70(1):313-35.

Arozarena I, Houser C, Echeverria AG, Brannstrom C. The rip current hazard in Costa Rica. Natural Hazards. 2015 Jun 1;77(2):753-68.

Barlas B, Beji S. Rip current fatalities on the Black Sea beaches of Istanbul and effects of cultural aspects in shaping the incidents. Natural Hazards. 2016 Jan 1;80(2):811-21.

Barrett G, Houser C. Identifying hotspots of rip current activity using wavelet analysis at Pensacola Beach, Florida. Physical Geography. 2012 Jan 1;33(1):32-49.

Brander RW, MacMahan JH. Future challenges for rip current research and outreach. Rip Currents, Beach Safety, Physical Oceanography and Wave Modeling, edited by: Leatherman, S. and Fletemeyer, J., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 2011 May 9:1-29.

Brannstrom, C., S. Trimble, A. Santos, H. Lee Brown, C. Houser (2014), “Perception of the rip current hazard on Galveston Island and North Padre Island, Texas, USA,” Natural Hazards 72(2): 1123-1138.

Brannstrom C, Brown HL, Houser C, Trimble S, Santos A. “You can't see them from sitting here”: Evaluating beach user understanding of a rip current warning sign. Applied Geography. 2015 Jan 31;56:61-70.

Brighton B, Sherker S, Brander R, Thompson M, Bradstreet A, (2013). Rip current related drowning deaths and rescues in Australia: 2004-2011. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 13: 1069-1075.

Caldwell N, Houser C, Meyer-Arendt K, (2013). Ability of beach users to identify rip currents at Pensacola Beach, Florida. Natural Hazards 68: 1041-1056.

Gensini VA, Ashley WS (2010) An examination of rip current fatalities in the United States. Natural Hazards 54: 159-175.

Houser C, Barrett G, Labude D (2011) Alongshore variation in the rip current hazard at Pensacola Beach, Florida. Natural Hazards, 57: 501-523.

Primack BA, Kim KH, Shensa A, Sidani JE, Barnett TE, Switzer GE. Tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use in university students: a cluster analysis. Journal of American College Health. 2012 Jul 1;60(5):374-86.

Klein AH, Santana GG, Diehl FL, De Menezes JT. Analysis of hazards associated with sea bathing: results of five years work in oceanic beaches of Santa Catarina state, southern Brazil. Journal of Coastal Research. 2003 Apr 1:107-16.

Mason MJ, Mennis J, Linker J, Bares C, Zaharakis N. Peer attitudes effects on adolescent substance use: The moderating role of race and gender. Prevention science. 2014 Feb 1;15(1):56-64.

Matthews B, Andronaco R, Adams A. Warning signs at beaches: Do they work?. Safety science. 2014 Feb 28;62:312-8.

Møller M, Haustein S. Peer influence on speeding behaviour among male drivers aged 18 and 28. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2014 Mar 31;64:92-9.

Morgan D, Ozanne-Smith J, Triggs T (2009) Self-reported water and drowning risk exposure at surf beaches. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 33(2): 180-88

Scott T, Russell P, Masselink G, Wooler A. Rip current variability and hazard along a macro-tidal coast. Journal of coastal research. 2009 Jan 1(56):895.

Sherker S, Brander R, Finch C, Hatfield J. Why Australia needs an effective national campaign to reduce coastal drowning. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2008 Jan 4;11(2):81-3.

Sherker S, Williamson A, Hatfield J, Brander R, Hayen A (2010) Beachgoers’ beliefs and behaviours in relation to beach flags and rip currents. Accident Analysis and Prevention 42: 1785-1804

Short AD, Hogan CI (1994) Rip currents and beach hazards: their impact on public safety and implications for coastal management. Journal of Coastal Research SI12: 197-209.

Wilks J, de Nardi M, Wodarski R (2007) Close is not close enough: drowning and rescues outside flagged beach patrol areas in Australia. Tourism in Marine Environments 4: 57-62.

Williamson A, Hatfield J, Sherker S, Brander R, Hayen A (2012) A comparison of attitudes and knowledge of beach safety in Australia for beachgoers, rural residents and international tourists. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 36: 385-391.




How to Cite

Houser, C., Brander, R., Brannstrom, C., Trimble, S., & Flaherty, J. (2016). Case Study of Rip Current Knowledge amongst Students Participating in a Study Abroad Program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 28(1), 42–60.



Research Articles