Dr Rip: “You Can Always Learn More”
Dr Rob Brander, known as “Dr Rip” is a geomorphologist, member of the Tamarama Beach Surf Life Saving Club and pipped as Australia’s best known surf scientist. I got in touch to find out a bit more about him and his message.
Sam: Where did it begin for you? Were you a surfer first or a scientist?
Dr Rip: I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada on the shores of Lake Ontario. Unfortunately the water was too cold and polluted to swim in but we used to vacation every year to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and that’s where my life long love of the ocean came from. I first came to Australia in 1992 as a backpacker and once I caught my first bodysurfing wave at Bondi I was hooked. So it’s always been passion for the ocean first, science second. Mixing them together has been amazing.
S: What’s a perfect day for you?
DR: If I can get in a good bodysurf, that’s all I need to be happy.
S: Technical science aside, has anything simple shaped your way of thinking? Any “Eureka” moments?
DR: My first Eureka moment was during my first visit to Australia when a friend pointed out a rip current at Bronte Beach. I couldn’t see it and couldn’t believe that I couldn’t see it…but it got me interested in rips which led to my PhD. Several years later I witnessed a rip current drowning in New Zealand and that’s when I realised that I had some very basic knowledge that I could and should communicate to people to stop unnecessary drownings.
S: You host talks, you’ve written a book… What’s the main message you like surfers to take away?
DR: For surfers, it’s just that you can always learn more about the ocean. Most surfers are pretty savvy, but it’s pretty cool to understand a little bit more about what’s behind all those perfect waves.
S: Is this message different for the general public?
DR: Yes, the general public doesn’t have nearly the amount of understanding of the beach and surf as surfers do. For them it’s a mixture of general interest for those who love beaches and waves and want to know more about them as well as getting some safety messages across.
S: Who should be interested in your book?
DR: Anyone who likes going to the beach or swimming and surfing in the ocean.
S: Nothing’s better than joining an experienced professional, but are there other ways for a learner surfer to safely gain real-world experience with rips?
DR: You can do a learn to surf class as they will talk about rips. Always ask a lifeguard if there are any rips and where are they. After a while, you’ll pick it up.
S: What word can you give me to add to my surf slang dictionary?
DR: Rip current pulsations – rip currents can quickly accelerate in speed after a big set has come in.
S: Thanks very much for your time, best of luck with spreading the word!
You can find out more about Dr Rip and his work at his website Science Of The Surf
In the meantime, check out this post for some really useful, visual info about rip currents.