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Media Advisory

May 26 media event to warn of rip currents at local beaches

25 May 2005

ATTENTION: General assignment reporters

Contact: Robert Sanders, Media Relations
(510) 643-6998 rsanders@berkeley.edu

A media briefing about the dangerous rip currents at San Francisco's Ocean Beach and another rare beach hazard, tsunamis. As the Memorial Day weekend approaches and people flock to the beach, rip currents pose a special hazard along this section of the coast.

The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that about 80 percent of lifeguard rescues at the country's surf beaches are of people caught in rip currents.

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. TOMORROW, Thursday, May 26.

Parking lot across from the Beach Chalet, just south of the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and the Great Highway, San Francisco.

Francis Smith, Ph.D., a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on the rip currents at Ocean Beach. With the assistance of Ocean Beach lifeguards, Smith will demonstrate self-rescuing techniques to use if caught in a rip current. He will be joined by Robert Wiegel, professor emeritus of civil engineering at UC Berkeley and a world expert on tsunamis and the properties of ocean waves.

Smith, a coastal oceanographer, has studied rip currents at Ocean Beach for the past eight years, but has had experience with them since he was a teenage surfer in the 1970s and a San Francisco lifeguard in the 1980s. Smith holds this popular briefing periodically to publicize the dangers of rip currents in the hopes of preventing drownings.

Wiegel, Smith's Ph.D. advisor, has been credited with creating the discipline of ocean engineering, with studies on the coastal effects of undersea earthquakes and landslides, coastal erosion, the effects of waves on seawalls and breakwaters and the impact of waves on offshore platforms.