Newly arrived in Australia? You’ll soon find that swimming and going to the beach is a huge part of Aussie culture. Take it from us – Australia’s beaches are some of the best in the world!

A day at the beach with your friends is guaranteed to be lots of fun – but sadly for some beachgoers, the fun turns into tragedy.

3 international students drowned on Australian beaches in the week after Christmas 2017

If you’re visiting the beach, you need to understand beach safety!

In an emergency

  • Raise your hand – This signals to lifeguards that you, or a friend, needs immediate help.
  • Immediately alert a lifeguard or call Triple Zero (000) – If you’re onshore and see someone in distress, call for help immediately.

How can I swim safely?

Check the weather

Before heading out, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast – the official Australian Bureau of Meteorology website should give you a clear idea of what the weather and surf conditions will be like on the day. Weather conditions have a huge impact on things like wave sizes, water currents and the possible appearance of bluebottles – so stay informed.

Choose the right beach for you

Some beaches are great for surfing, whilst others are calmer and more protected – each beach has its own unique landscape and reputation. Make sure you check signs and do your research to find the best spot for you.

Never dive into the water without checking depth. A lot of water is deceptively shallow or deep – and beach landscapes are ever-changing. Never assume you ‘know the beach’ well enough to dive in blindly. Keep an eye out also for submerged objects or sand shelves.

  • Always swim at a patrolled beach. Seek a safe spot between the red and yellow flags.
  • Swim with others. For safety, never swim at a beach when you’re completely alone.
  • Swim during the daytime. Swimming at night or dusk may be risky.

BE SUN SAFE – SLIP, SLOP, SLAP!

SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on some sunscreen and SLAP on a hat.

To be sun-smart during an Australian Summer, remember to:

  • Apply sunscreen
  • Bring along a hat, shirt, and sunnies (sunglasses)
  • Bring along a bottle of water to sip
  • Find a shady spot on the beach

CHECK THE SIGNS & ALWAYS SWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS

When you get to the beach, always look out for flags and signs – they’ll signal to you and warn you about any potential hazards, or dangerous conditions, that are around on the day (common warnings will alert you to the presence of bluebottles or dangerous shore-breaks, for example).

The red and yellow flags are the most important signs on the beach. They signal the safest place to swim. The area between the red and yellow flags is actively patrolled by lifesavers.

Stay safe – make sure you’re always between the flags.

Check out the Beach Safe website for a more detailed look at specific flags and signs

UNDERSTAND RIP CURRENTS

A ‘rip’, or a rip current, is a powerful, hard to see water current which flows away from the shore. In fact, rips are also the ‘number one hazard on Australian beaches’ – there are about 17,000 rips at Aussie beaches on any given day (Beachsafe). They’re also dangerous – if you get caught in a rip, you might find yourself very quickly being pulled by a strong current out to sea.

Rip currents or rips are the number one hazard on Australian beaches. The best way to avoid a rip is to swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.

How to spot a rip current:

Rips are complex, can quickly change shape and location, and at times, are difficult to see. You need to look for:

  • Deeper, dark-coloured water.
  • Fewer breaking waves.
  • A rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters.
  • Anything floating out to sea or foamy, discoloured, sandy, water flowing out beyond the waves.

Rips don’t always show all of these signs at once!

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How to survive a rip current:

  • Relax – stay calm and float to conserve your energy.
  • Raise – raise your arm and attract attention from lifeguards or lifesavers.
  • Rescue – the lifeguards or lifesavers will be on their way to help you.
  • While floating, rip currents may flow in a circular pattern and return you to an adjacent sandbar
  • You may escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach, towards the breaking waves.
  • Reassess your situation. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try one of the other options until you’re rescued or return to shore.

Remember, when it comes to staying safe, the best way to avoid being stuck in a rip current is to stay informed, be cautious and not take unnecessary risks.

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Get the Beachsafe App

Taking a road trip up the coast? On holiday? Or just looking for the right beach for you? Find your nearest beaches in seconds.

Access the latest information about every Australian beach on the go. Offering unrivalled coverage of the Australian coastline, the Beachsafe app provides detailed information on beach patrol status, facilities and hazards to weather, swell and tide.

Surf Life Saving Australia recommends swimming at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags.

Download it from the App Store or Google Play.

Build Your Beach Confidence

Learning to swim in a controlled, patrolled environment – like a local pool, or at the beach with your local swimming club – is a great way to develop confidence in and around the water. Joining a swimming club, surf club, group or team (or just hanging around by the local pool) is also a fantastic way to engage with your community and make local friends.

Surf Clubs often run beachside club events, marathons and competitions and community education programs teaching beach safety and swimming skills, which also foster a greater sense of local community. A great many Aussie seaside suburbs have their own surf club, so if you’re keen on hitting the water, don’t be shy – ask around! You can join, volunteer or (if you’re a strong swimmer) train to become a fully-fledged lifesaver.

Follow these guidelines, and you’re all set for a classic Aussie experience.

Always remember the golden rule to stay safe: when in doubt, don’t go out!