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With COVID-19 travel restrictions preventing holidaymakers from travelling interstate or overseas, the number of people on some NSW beaches these school holidays has been similar to those normally seen at Christmas and New Year. Surf lifesavers are now worried about the possibility of increased coastal drownings this coming long weekend.

Joel Wiseman, SLSNSW Director of Lifesaving, said that compared to last year there had been a significant increase in the number of people hitting the beach in places like Port Macquarie, Yamba and along the Far South Coast.

“With numbers on the beach approaching those that we’d normally expect to see at peak times like Christmas and New Year - and the fantastic conditions forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology - we’re gearing up for a very busy long weekend,” Joel Wiseman said.

“We are making sure that Surf Life Saving NSW frontline resources such as RWCs (jetskis) and our Duty Officers are prepared and ready to respond to any coastal emergency.

“Many of our Duty Officers will be conducting roving patrols along the coastline at patrolled and unpatrolled locations this long weekend and our drone surveillance teams will continue operations, monitoring beach conditions, marine creature activity and assisting with search and rescue operations,” Wiseman said.

Cheryl McCarthy, Director of Lifesaving on the Far South Coast, said that there had been a noticeable increase in tourism to the area since August as people chose to holiday there to support the region after the devastating January bushfires.

“We’re seeing a big increase in tourism from country areas into the Far South Coast and some of these people can be unfamiliar with the beach and the conditions so we’re being mindful of that and being extra cautious, talking with people on the beach about surf safety,” Cheryl McCarthy said.

“Our volunteer patrols are back on the beach this long weekend with the red and yellow flags going up for the first time this season at Batemans Bay, Broulee, Bermagui and Pambula,” she said.

Northern NSW beaches are also experiencing a busy start to the season.

“With the COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, we are starting to see large groups of people at most of the beaches,” said Northern NSW Lifeguard Coordinator, Scott McCartney.

“We’re doing more roving patrols with our jetskis so that if there is an incident outside the flagged areas we’re already on the water and able to respond quickly. We’ve also been using the UAVs to check for rips and other dangers.

“It’s going to be a very busy weekend. With great conditions forecast we’re expecting very large numbers. Everyone will want to spend some time on the beach this weekend,” McCartney said.

NSW coastal and ocean drowning statistics from the past five years show a strong correlation between public holidays and drownings – due mainly to increased attendance.

In the past week, two teenagers drowned in separate incidents in NSW. On Wednesday a 17-year-old boy drowned when he was caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach near Forster and yesterday a boy drowned at Mermaids Pools, near Tahmoor, failing to resurface after jumping into water from a high rock platform.

Lifesavers are reminding people to always swim at patrolled locations, between the red and yellow flags and to check the Beachsafe website or app for the most up-to-date information on patrolled beach locations, conditions and beach closures.

“This weekend we’re reminding beachgoers to always swim at patrolled locations, to wear a lifejacket if rock fishing or boating and to call Triple-Zero (000) immediately if they see anyone experiencing difficulty in the water,” Joel Wiseman concluded.

Last year there were 49 coastal and ocean drowning deaths in NSW which is well above the 16-year average of 42. Since 1 July 2020 there have been 11 coastal and ocean drowning deaths in NSW.


  • 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 Police

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


Friday 2 October 2020