Surf Lifesavers On High Alert As Border Openings Set To See Influx To Beaches Over Christmas Holidays
With Australian borders opening up and families reuniting for Christmas holidays, surf lifesavers and lifeguards are reminding all beachgoers to remain vigilant when visiting the coastline over the holiday period as they prepare for an influx of visitors.
Coastal drowning deaths last year were up by 13%, with spikes observed immediately following large-scale lockdowns, prompting Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) to urge all visiting the coastline to swim at patrolled locations between the red and yellow flags; and to keep watch over their mates and children.
Last Summer (December – February) 49 people lost their lives due to drowning on the coast, with the summer accounting for 36% of all drowning deaths across 2020-21 (136 coastal drowning deaths).
SLSA report a number of alarming trends that have prompted the warnings ahead of Christmas, including:
- 241 coastal deaths for 2020-21. Of these 136 were drowning related, with males vastly overrepresented with 90%.
- 150% increase (on the 17-year average) in the number of coastal drowning deaths due to bystanders attempting to rescue someone in distress, with a clear association with rip currents at unpatrolled locations
- 3.7 million Australian adults have unintentionally been caught in a rip with 1 in 3 Australian adults not confident in their ability to identify a rip current.
SLSA General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw, said surf lifesavers want all families to enjoy the coastline safely over the Christmas and school holidays.
“There is nothing more Australian than getting in some beach time over the Christmas break. But we want all families to enjoy our coastline safely and the simple message is find a patrolled beach and swim between the red and yellow flags,” said Daw.
“Rip currents remain the leading hazard across our coastline and can change shape and location quickly.
“On any given day, there are about 17,000 rips at beaches around Australia. Our job as surf lifesavers is about helping people identify the safest place to swim at our beaches.
“If you do find yourself at an unpatrolled location, STOP, LOOK and PLAN before entering the water,” he said.
Last year, 10 people tragically lost their lives attempting to save someone who got into trouble.
“We saw last season some families tragically losing loved ones who attempted to rescue their friends and families, only to get in trouble themselves,” said Daw.
“It’s important to look out for your mates and your loved ones this Christmas – and also do the right thing, therefore it is important to understand your limitations, avoid alcohol and drugs while around water; wear a lifejacket when boating, on watercraft or rock fishing; and where possible swim between the red and yellow flags.
“Remember to also keep an eye on children in, on and around water. Children can get into trouble quickly so stay alert, don’t be distracted, and make sure children are being safe around the water,” he said.
Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck, urged families and friends to look out for each other.
“For too many people, understanding the consequences of not taking precautions around our waterways only becomes clear when a loved one drowns,” Minister Colbeck said.
“Every death is devastating and affects families for years to come.
“Drowning deaths are avoidable. Listen to the advice of our dedicated Surf Life Saving Australia lifesavers, read the signs and watch out for those you care for.
“Together we can help ensure this holiday season is safer for everybody.”
For more information on how to stay safe when visiting the beach this summer, or find your nearest patrolled location, visit www.beachsafe.org.au or download the BeachSafe APP.
For all the latest coastal drowning trends – click here for the National Coastal Safety Report.