Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as eight feet per second have been measured. This is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.
Rip currents do not pull people under the water; they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore.
Rip currents are present on many beaches every day of the year, but they are usually too slow to be dangerous to beachgoers. However, under certain wave, tide and beach shape conditions they can increase to dangerous speeds.
Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.