If you are heading to the beach this summer please stay safe. Although Australian beaches may look amazing, they can be unpredictable and hide some dangers that every visitor should be aware of.
*Always swim between the red and yellow flags*
When you see red and yellow flags on a beach, it indicates that there is currently a lifesaving service operating on that beach. The lifeguards have chosen a section of the beach that is best for swimming and they will closely supervise this area. Lifeguards pay more attention to the area between the red and yellow flags than any other part of the beach.
Before you go on to the beach be sure to read the safety signs. This will ensure you are aware of any warnings or dangers on the beach. You can also find other helpful information to make your day at the beach more enjoyable. You might also find single signs placed on the beach to highlight specific warnings.
*Ask a lifeguard for safety advice*
Lifeguards are highly trained and very knowledgeable about beach safety and conditions. When you arrive at the beach look for and identify the lifeguards. Feel free to ask them about the day’s conditions, as well any additional beach safety advice they might have for that specific beach – because every beach is different.
Not only is swimming with a friend (or family member) a fun way to enjoy the beach, it is also very sensible. While you are swimming together you can keep an eye out for each other, and if further assistance is required, one person could call or go for help. If everyone swimming together knows their own limits it is a good idea to share this with those around you so you can all stay within everyone’s comfortable limits.
If you need help, stay calm and attract attention
Even the most careful people can find themselves out of their limits in the water. If you are not feeling comfortable in the water and you require a lifeguard’s assistance to get back to shore, stay calm, raise your arm in the air and wave it from side to side. This will attract the attention of a lifeguard who will be able to come to your assistance. You should conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until further aid arrives.
Rips, currents, waves, drop offs, sand bars, submerged objects, other people and surf craft all pose significant risk
Rips pose one of the most significant hazards. Rips are fast-flowing currents where water flows back out to sea. Recognising a rip is the first step in being able to avoid being caught in one. Look for discoloured water, formed from sand being stirred up from the bottom; foam on the surface that extends beyond the breaking waves, a ripple appearance when the water around is generally calm, floating debris with the current and waves breaking larger and further out on both sides of the rip.
Don’t panic if you get caught in a rip, but try and remain calm. If you are a poor swimmer then you should go with the rip, stay afloat and signal to lifesavers or other beach users and wait to be rescued. If you are a weak or tired swimmer, swim parallel to the shore and swim in when conditions allow. If you are a strong swimmer, swim parallel to the shore or angle your body diagonally across the current, returning to the shore through the breaking waves.