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As thousands of NSW Year 12 graduates make their final preparations for the traditional schoolies week which officially kicks off from Saturday, the lifesaving community is issuing a warning to those looking to cool off during the celebrations; alcohol and the ocean are a dangerous combination.

An influx of school leavers will be heading to holiday hotspots across the state, with sea, sun, and fun sure to be an important part of the festivities which marks the end of 13 years of study.

While many schoolies will be travelling to traditional tourist destinations in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland, there has been a trend in recent years for school leavers to head to smaller seaside towns.

Areas such as Port Macquarie, Forster, South West Rocks and Batemans Bay have all experienced a surge in popularity for schoolies looking for a more relaxed holiday.

Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) Northern  NSW coordinator Scott McCartney  said holidaying students should make the most of their time off, but has urged all schoolies to watch out for each other while enjoying all the beach has to offer.

“There are many wonderful beaches across NSW, and they are great places to relax, but it is crucial for everyone to be aware of the importance of surf safety.

“Please take the time to familiarise yourself with local conditions, always swim between the flags during patrolled hours, ask lifeguards or lifesavers for advice and avoid the temptation of swimming after consuming alcohol or swimming at night,” Mr McCartney  said.

Both Byron Bay and Tweed Valley Councils have taken a pro-active stance on beach safety ahead of the summer season with lifeguards stationed on Main Beach Byron Bay and Kingscliff Main Beach during the week.

This five-day-a-week service complements the weekend patrol hours, ensuring that these two beaches will have total coverage. Schoolies in the area are strongly encouraged to swim at either of those two locations and not at unpatrolled beaches where situations can escalate quickly especially if the environment is unfamiliar.

Additionally the Far North Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving has activated their support operations team for the entire duration of the festivities. That means jet skis, 4 wheel drives and duty officers are available to respond to emergencies if required.

NSW Lifesaving Manager Matt du Plessis hopes that the key message of “watching out for your mates” will get through to all teenagers embarking on schoolies.

“While our lifesavers and lifeguards are all extremely well-trained, it is important for everyone to know the dangers and to watch out for your friends while enjoying the water.

“We want people to have a good time and to make sensible decisions around their own and others safety in the water,” he said.

Lifesavers and lifeguards will be out in force to reiterate the importance of surf safety throughout the celebrations, and should be the first point of call for anyone experiencing any difficulties while on the beach.

Schoolies Safety Checklist

• Only swim at a patrolled beach, between the red and yellow flags

• Don’t swim under the influence of alcohol/drugs

• Never swim at night

• Ask a surf lifesaver or lifeguard for advice

• Look after your mates, and know where your group is while in the water

• Call triple-zero – Police to report an in-water emergency


Friday 24 November 2017