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As safety measures ramp up across the state once again in the face of a new strain of COVID-19, Surf Life Saving NSW is reminding holiday beachgoers to swim between the flags this Christmas.

With warm conditions expected on Christmas day and many families choosing to celebrate the holidays closer to home for a second straight year, surf lifesavers and lifeguards are expecting large numbers to visit the coastline over the coming days.

In NSW, drowning deaths are 2.7x more likely to occur on a public holiday and 1.6x more likely during school holidays. The end of year break, often coupled with celebrating with family and friends, can create a perfect storm.

“We love the holidays, as it’s a time to connect with family and friends and celebrate the great life that we live in Australia,” SLSNSW President, George Shales said.

“However, it’s important we don’t get carried away during this period and forget to be vigilant on our beaches.

“The beach and an Australian Christmas are synonymous with each other, but we can’t let the festivities cloud our judgement as putting ourselves in dangerous positions in the water can have devastating consequences.”

Data from the 2021 NSW Coastal Safety Report, released in September as a reflection of the 12 months from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, suggests that males are heavily overrepresented in drowning statistics, making up an enormous 93% of all recorded fatalities.

During the documented period, 88 coastal deaths were recorded with 45 of those classed as coastal drownings.

“The statistics reinforce the need for us to push surf safety messages throughout our communities,” George continued.

“It’s also a stout reminder that one of the most important things to do when considering entering the water is to do so at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.”


  • In NSW, drowning deaths are 2.7x more likely to occur on a public holiday and 1.6x more likely during school holidays.
  • Drownings are 1.9x more likely on the weekend.
  • NSW contributes to 49% of the country’s coastal bystander rescuer fatalities, the largest of any state.
  • 88% of these fatalities are Australian residents, 81% are male and 64% are rescuing someone younger than 18.
  • Men make up 93% of all coastal drownings.


  • 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 locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

Friday 24 December 2021