Rip currents present a severe hazard for water users on beaches and account for the greatest cause of lifeguard rescues worldwide. The physical dynamics of rip currents are well studied, and more recently, the social and behavioural science research surrounding human interaction of rip currents has been expanding, providing a social perspective and feeding into public education strategies. The aim of this study was to assess levels of public understanding of rip currents and beach safety on UK beaches. A questionnaire was undertaken (N = 407) during the summer of 2012 on four beaches. Beach users had a poor knowledge of rip currents (n = 263), but those who have been caught in a rip have a higher level of knowledge. Conversely, beach users had a good understanding of what the beach safety flags indicated (n = 314), and most people complied with this flag system (n = 339). In addition, people previously educated on rip currents had a higher knowledge, and lifeguards proved to be the most effective form of education. The study presents an insight into UK beach users’ knowledge of rip currents and provides more evidence with which to pilot a rip current education scheme within the UK.