NSW volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards are urging the public to be surf safe this Australia Day long weekend, where forecast temperatures are set to soar into the high 30s and low 40s in regions across the state on Friday.

With many set to enjoy a long weekend and some expected to take extra days off in the lead-up to Friday’s public holiday, lifesavers are anticipating more than 1 million people to flock to the coastline.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting major northern regional hubs Forster, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, as well as Sydney and the Illawarra to reach temperatures in the early 30s. Meanwhile, temperatures in the Hunter and Central Coast have the potential to reach 40 degrees.

All of this is a dangerous cocktail of ingredients which sees the coastal drowning risk climb by four times on Australia Day. Equally, the risk is 1.5x as likely during school holidays and more than two times as likely on public holidays generally and long weekends.

Since December 1, there has been 11 coastal drownings recorded across the state.

Callout teams and additional Support Operations assets are on standby across the state, with jetskis, inflatable rescue boats and drones out in force. Duty Officers in each region will be performing enhanced proactive surveillance activities and the State Operations Centre in Sydney has additional operators rostered to cope with the number of incidents which are expected.

“The statistics show that Australia Day is one of the busiest days of the year on our beaches and is always a big day for our volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards. With hot conditions forecast, we have a very simple message for anyone heading to the coast,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO, Steven Pearce.

“Enjoy the weekend but make sure that if you’re heading to the beach, visit a patrolled location and only swim between the red and yellow flags.”

All drownings recorded to date have occurred at an unpatrolled location, outside of patrol hours and the red and yellow flags.

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said the dangers of swimming at unpatrolled and remote locations have been tragically highlighted across the summer.

“Surf lifesavers are anticipating an extreme level of activity over the coming days, so we are asking everyone to be water safety conscious and support our volunteers by listening to their advice,” Minister Dib added.

“I’d like to thank our volunteers who give their time to ensure beachgoers safety and that everyone enjoys their day in the surf at some of the world’s best beaches.”

As Australians flock to the coast to enjoy the Australia Day holiday, surf lifesavers are also reminding people to avoid swimming under the influence of drugs and alcohol and to check the BeachSafe website or download the BeachSafe app to find patrolled beach locations before leaving home.

Thursday 25 January 2024