Bondi Beach is Australia's most famous beach and is such a national icon, that it was listed on the Australian Natural Heritage list in 2008. It's a great beach and a wacky place in general. Just watch a few episodes of the reality TV show Bondi Rescue and you'll get the general idea. Basically, you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it, but usually in the mornings in March and April when the crowds are gone and the water is still warm. It's magic.
However, Bondi can be dangerous. This summer it got a lot of publicity for the shark attack on local surfer Glen Orgias. As horrible as that was, it was the first attack in 80 years and sharks really are not a problem...but they sell newspapers. Much more of a problem is the fact that Bondi usually has about 4-5 rips along the beach, none more famous than the Backpacker's Express at the southern end. It's called this because backpackers (and tourists in general) really have no idea what rips are, jump off the 380 bus, run straight down to the beach, dive into the water and straight into the rip. And off they go. It doesn't help that "Backpackers" is almost ALWAYS THERE. It's a classic example of a permanent headland rip. It's not as funny as it sounds. A huge amount of rescues take place every year in the rip, tourists and Australians alike, and as recently as January, 2007 a doctor from Mongolia, who was about to resume studies at The University of New South Wales, drowned in the rip.
In this picture, the rip appears as a clear, seemingly calm, dark channel between breaking waves on the shallow sand bar and the reef.
On this day, the rip channel was oriented offshore in a sort of S-bend direction. You can also see the existence of large ripples within the rip channel itself. Ripples that size are an indication that water is moving fast. You can also see a rip a few hundred metres down the beach. Again it's a classic dark gap between the breaking waves on the shallow sand bars AND you can also see that the rip has eroded the beach creating a little embayment.
The waves on this day were small, but because the channel was so well formed, the rips were flowing pretty fast. Lifeguards will tell you these are the days that most people get into trouble because it looks safe.
If you want to swim at Bondi and don't want to get rescued in a rip, head north to the sets of beach flags in the middle of the beach and at the northern end. Unless of course, you want to end up on Bondi Rescue.