Dr Rip on the 5mins that could save your life

It might take a few minutes, but surveying surf conditions before you jump in could just save your life.

The dynamic nature of the Illawarra coastline was highlighted at a free safety talk hosted by Wollongong City Council yesterday.

Presented by Dr Rob Brander, also known as "Doctor Rip", the session included identification of rips and other currents, what to do if you are caught in one and the difference between safe and unsafe waves.

Conditions at North Wollongong Beach, where the talk was held, were relatively calm at lunchtime yesterday with just one rip spotted near the rocks at the southern end.

Purple dye was released into the water to demonstrate its movement.

"There are rips at most of the beaches at the moment," Dr Brander said, urging beachgoers to spend a few minutes observing the conditions.

"Those five to 10 minutes could save your life ... lifeguards aren't everywhere," he said.

"The biggest problem is rips often look like a safe place to swim.

"[Rips] aren't evil, they're not there to drown you."

And if you do get caught in one, don't panic, stay afloat and signal for help.

"The rip doesn't pull you underwater," he said.

"It's not going to take you to New Zealand, there's a good chance it'll take you back to shore."

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