Two-thirds of Kiwis can't identify rip currents in the surf.
A University of Canterbury study has found 78 per cent of people who spotted a rip in photographs couldn't pick one in real life at Auckland's Muriwai Beach, a site of ongoing concern.
Senior lecturer Seb Pitman says he wondered if photo-based education translates to a real beach.
He says it was clear photos aren't a great educator, which could explain why there are so many rescues at New Zealand beaches.
Pitman says New Zealand has about five rip-related drownings each year.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand's Adam Wooler told Heather du Plessis-Allan that it highlights how we teach people about rip currents.
"What we've learnt over the last five to 10 years of research is that rip currents are quite complex. They don't always behave in the same way, and they are quite difficult to spot, even for someone who is trained."