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With heatwave conditions and large swells forecast, surf lifesavers are preparing for a busy Australia Day long weekend as thousands of beachgoers head to the coast to cool off.

With COVID-19 restrictions impacting interstate travel, thousands of people are expected to flock to NSW beaches over the next five days looking to make the most of the Australia Day public holiday and the last weekend before school resumes.

Surf lifesavers are on high alert with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting heatwave conditions across much of the state and temperatures expected to push into the 40s in some areas.

The effects of hazardous surf over the last few days remains a factor in planning for all available rescue and emergency response assets to be on standby through until Tuesday.

“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 and large swells 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, go to a patrolled location and only swim between the red and yellow flags,” he said.

The dangers of swimming at unpatrolled and remote locations have been tragically highlighted by the death of a woman who lost her life while trying to save her young son on the Far South Coast last weekend.

SLSNSW Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman, said that with hazardous surf conditions and big crowds expected in the coming days, the risks of swimming at unpatrolled locations had increased significantly.

“Beaches can change quickly during large swell events, including the location of rips, so we’re asking everyone, even strong swimmers, to exercise extreme caution this weekend,” Joel Wiseman said.

“Too often we see tragic incidents where a person has drowned while trying to rescue someone else. You might be a good swimmer yourself, however trying to save someone else, often without any rescue equipment or training is extremely difficult and dangerous,” said Joel Wiseman.

Since 1 July 2020, there have been three fatalities where bystanders have drowned while attempting to rescue someone caught in a rip. Last Sunday’s drowning at Congo Beach was preceded by recent tragedies at Woonona Beach, Illawarra and Frazer Beach on the Central Coast.

“If you do see someone in trouble at an unpatrolled location, call for help, dial Triple-Zero and try to signal or alert someone skilled to assist, like a surfer. If you decide to attempt a rescue yourself, take a minute to try to locate some form of rescue device or flotation aid, like a bodyboard to take with you. It can buy you and the person you’re assisting precious minutes afloat until help arrives,” said Joel Wiseman.

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.

Beachsafe is also the go-to for anyone wanting to check if there are access restrictions at specific locations due to COVID concerns.

“We’ll be assisting Councils again this weekend to flag beaches in Beachsafe that are at or near capacity and access is restricted due to over-crowding,” said CEO Steven Pearce.

Since 1 July 2020, 20 people have drowned on the NSW coastline. During the 2019/20 season, 49 people drowned on the NSW coastline.

Beach Safety Tips

  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website

  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information

  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water

  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm

  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero

For information about patrol times, weather, and beach access restrictions, visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.


Thursday 21 January 2021