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Volunteer surf lifesavers that patrolled NSW beaches over the past four days of heatwave conditions and Australia Day celebrations have been praised for keeping beachgoers safe during one of the busiest weekends on the coastline on record.

There were over 387,000 visitors to patrolled NSW beaches on Australia Day and volunteer surf lifesavers along the NSW coastline performed over 346 rescues. This is more than triple the rescues performed on Australia Day last year. They also performed over 12,000 preventative actions, keeping beachgoers safe.

George Shales OAM, President of Surf Life Saving NSW said that the Australia Day weekend was one of the most operationally busy periods surf lifesavers had seen in many years.

“The huge number of rescues and preventative actions our volunteer lifesavers performed were the result of extreme heatwave conditions, large powerful swells and an enormous convergence of visitors to all our beaches - plus an Australia Day celebration thrown in,” George Shales said.

“In hundreds of instances, our surf lifesavers were the difference between families having a wonderful beach experience or their day ending in tragedy and anguish.

“Yesterday, Australia Day, saw our surf lifesavers experience one of the most operationally busy days we have ever seen. Our lifesavers performed 346 rescues and approximately 12,000 preventative actions - all in just a 12-hour period!” he said.

Manly Beach at 2pm on Australia Day 2021

Steven Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, said that the statistics will increase as the SLSNSW State Operations Centre receives the remainder of the outstanding Surf Life Saving Club patrol reports which will make Australia Day, operationally, a stand-out event, when compared to previous summers.

“These are amazing statistics and demonstrate the value and commitment lifesavers provide to NSW communities,” Steven Pearce said.

“Unfortunately, there were a number of tragic drownings that occurred over the Australia Day weekend period at unpatrolled locations. However, volunteer lifesavers responded to these incidents and provided invaluable assistance,” he said.

Steven Pearce said that with almost three months of patrolling days ahead, and with the tragic toll of 27 lives lost so far this season, surf lifesavers will remain focused, committed and ready to respond.

There have been 27 coastal drowning deaths since 1 July 2020, with seven fatalities since 1 January 2021.

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 or Download the App.


Wednesday 27 January 2021