As most waves break at an angle to the shoreline, they push water sideways, forming a current that moves parallel to the beach. These range in speed from fast-flowing to subtle movement. This is called a lateral current. These currents pose little threat to the average swimmer, but can push swimmers downcoast onto rocks or other obstacles. They can also form into rip currents. Lateral currents are also called side or longshore currents.
Rip currents account for many surfing accidents. A rip current is a swift current of water which flows from shore out to sea. They are often characterized by a strong brownish, (choppy water) flow of water pushing back out to sea. Rip currents happen when large quantities of water accumulate near shore due to natural wave action. Depending on lateral currents, rip currents can be fixed at one location or can occur at more than one point along the beach.
Rip currents are very dangerous and can pull people out to sea. If you do unfortunately get caught in a rip, swim parallel to shore until you swim free of the rip current, then swim to shore.
A Backwash often occurs with high tides where the beach rises sharply away from the water's edge. Backwash occurs when the water remaining on the beach returns forcefully to the sea beneath the following incoming waves.As you can imagine this can be especially weaker swimmers.
A Shore break is a ocean condition when waves break directly on the shore they are unpredictable and dangerous. It can slam the swimmer onto the beach. They can cause serious neck and spinal injuries to both experienced and inexperienced surfers and swimmers. Avoid body surfing during shore break conditions. Check with a lifeguard about the wave conditions.