As thousands of NSW Year 12 graduates make their final preparations for the traditional Schoolies week, which officially kicks off from Saturday, surf lifesavers are again issuing a warning to those looking to cool off during the celebrations; alcohol, drugs 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 and end-of-year exams.
One of the more popular destinations for the class of 2019 is Byron Bay and surrounding regions. Preparations are well underway by the area’s lifesavers and lifeguards in anticipation of the expected surge of visitors set to descend on the town. Byron Bay’s Main Beach alone receives over 10,000 visitors a day during Schoolies week.
“For us, Schoolies week really is the start of summer and one of our busiest periods of the year,” said Far North Coast Lifeguard Coordinator Scott McCartney.
“Our message to everyone, but particularly to school leavers visiting from outside the area, is to make that extra effort and swim between the red and yellow flags at a patrolled location.
“Come and have fun but give yourself plenty of time to recover before going for a swim after a big night out.
“Every year we respond to emergency call-outs where people have gone for an early morning swim, with alcohol still in their system, and have found themselves in need of assistance” he said.
Surf Life Saving NSW is encouraging visitors to head to Main Beach Kingscliff, Byron Bay’s Main Beach or Lennox Head where Lifeguards will be on patrol for the three-week Schoolies period. All local surf clubs will be patrolling over the weekends.
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, four-wheel drives and duty officers are available to respond to emergencies if required.
The impact of Schoolies week also extends down the coast to towns including Port Macquarie, Forster, South West Rocks and Batemans Bay which have all experienced a surge in popularity with schoolies in recent years.
Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce hopes that the key message of “watching out for your mates” will get through to all teenagers visiting the beach during Schoolies week.
“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.
“There are many wonderful beaches across NSW, and they are great places to relax after the stress of exams, 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 Pearce said.
Far North Coast Patrolled Beaches - Schoolies Weeks (16 November to 8 December)
- Duranbah - Lifeguards (7 days per week). Starts 1 December.
- Kingscliff - Lifeguards (Mon-Fri). Volunteer Surf Lifesavers (Weekends). Currently operational.
- Byron Main Beach - Lifeguards (Mon-Fri). Volunteer Surf Lifesavers (Weekends). Currently operational.
- Lennox Head - Lifeguards (Mon-Fri). Volunteer Surf Lifesavers (Weekends). Currently Operational.
Schoolies Safety Checklist
- Only swim at a patrolled beach, between the red and yellow flags
- Don’t swim under the influence of alcohol or 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 (000) to report an in-water emergency.
Friday 15 November 2019