Sydney Students Gain Beach Safety Knowledge

A group of high schoolers from Sydney’s West will get firsthand experience of surf safety at Wollongong’s North Beach from this week thanks to an innovative community education program.

Already in 2015 almost 3000 students aged 13-17 have been put through the Blackspots Surf School theory program. This week sees the launch of the practical component to this program, which will place about half of that number in the idyllic waves off Wollongong for their on-beach experience.

During the practical sessions the students will be shown how to identify rips and currents, learn the best way to stay safe in the sun, improve their skills and confidence in the water environment, and be introduced to basic rescue techniques.

The Blackspots Surf School is in its third year, and during that time almost 10,000 students from Western Sydney have participated in the program with 2015 marking the first year of on the beach activities to complement existing theory lessons.

Driving the program are the shocking statistics that in almost half of all coastal drownings in NSW the victim lives more than 50 kilometres from the beach where the incident occurs.

A core aim for the program is to help the teenagers who complete this course to become community leaders and pass this knowledge and skills on to younger siblings and families who might not necessarily possess them.

Surf Life Saving NSW Education Manager Louise Cooke is delighted with the way the students have responded to the program so far, believing that the message of safety is getting across to a vulnerable audience.

“With a hot summer looming, cooling off at the beach is a popular activity, and it is important that teenagers are equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to confidently handle the water,” Ms Cooke said.

“From an educational perspective it is also pleasing for us that these skills are being passed on to parents and siblings within the community ensuring that the message of surf safety is being spread wide.

“Our aim is for everyone to be able to enjoy their time in the water safely, and community education plays a key role in that.”

The program is the result of a partnership between Surf Life Saving NSW and the State Government who fully funds the program as part of the Water Safety Council Black Spots Fund, while also being strongly supported by Wollongong Council who provides a lifeguard for the practical workshops.

“Wollongong City Council will again embrace the opportunity to partner with Surf Life Saving for the delivery of the beach safety education program within the Wollongong LGA,” Beach Services Coordinator Jason Foye said.

Mr Foye noted that the 17 patrolled beaches within easy driving distance from areas surrounding Campbelltown make the area an attractive destination for families from Sydney’s west.

“Our beaches offer a safe setting for an array of recreational and leisure pursuits that are supported by ample parking, quality amenities and park furniture, well maintained parks, expansive shared cycle way, 150 playgrounds, numerous cafes, and outdoor activities for young and old.

“This program enables both Surf Life Saving and Council to provide a valuable insight into the risks that are that are associated within a beach environment specific to the location where they will predominantly visit,” he concluded.

Practical workshops for the Blackspots Surf School involving students from across Western Sydney will continue to be held in Wollongong until mid-December.

Photograph - Wollongong's North Beach will host the practical workshops from this week

Mon 2 Nov 2015