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APOLA President Bruce Hopkins gains support for adoption of Float to Survive initiative as a national anti-drowning prevention message

APOLA President Bruce Hopkins gains support for adoption of Float to Survive initiative as a national anti-drowning prevention message
September 9, 2022

Committed to developing simple messages on water safety, Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins, President of both Surf Educators International (SEI) and the Australian Pool and Ocean Lifeguard Association (APOLA), has been generating support for having SEI’s Float to Survive program adopted as a national drowning prevention message.

Developed by Hopkins, who has an international profile as a result of his appearing on television's Bondi Rescue, and SEI co-founder and surf educator Craig Riddington (the former Ironman who has been described as "the greatest ocean swimmer of all time"), ‘Float to Survive’ calls for immediate change in how swimmers are advised to act when caught in an ocean rip by advocating floating, which minimises drowning risks by conserving energy and placing a person in a better position to breathe.

It is a strategy that anyone can use in any aquatic situation whether it’s the surf, creek, river, lake or swimming pool.

Documentation on ‘Float to Survive’ from the not-for-profit SEI, advises that “it reduces physical fatigue caused by the instinct to fight and swim. It is a basic skill that is can be accessible and affordable to the wider population. It can be delivered to local swimming pools and beaches across Australia.”

Float to Survive, which is also backed by APOLA, delivers a similar message to the UK Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Float to Live initiative which has resulted in a steady decrease in open water drowning has been steadily.

SEI and APOLA’s work is underpinned by Professor Michael Tipton MBE from the UK’s University of Portsmouth who has spent decades researching drowning and his work supports both ‘Float to Survive’ and ‘Float to Live’.

Moving the initiative forward, stakeholders convened a meeting hosted by Randwick City Council on 23rd August attend by Hopkins and fellow APOLA and SEI executive, Ken Holloway; Phil Ayres of Surf Life Saving NSW, Professor Rob Brander of the UNSW Beach Safety Research Group; Todd Clarke and Peter Halcro of Randwick City Council; Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos; Scott Muir, Surf Life Saving Sydney; Randwick Mayor Dylan Parker; Emily Scott of Waverley Council; Adam Weir of Surf Life Saving Australia and, by video, Federal MP for Kingsford-Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite.

NSW state member for Lakemba, Jihad Dib is also backing the adoption of the simple Float to Survive message.

Following a recent meeting with Hopkins, Dib stated “as the former Principle of Punchbowl Boys High and now MP for Lakemba I’m very concerned about water safety especially in our CALD communities.

“If you haven’t been brought up near the beach or not had the opportunity to learn how to swim a trip to the river or ocean can end tragically for family and friends.

“(So) when Hoppo asked me to support his drowning prevention campaign ‘Float to Survive’ it was a no brainer (as) I have the greatest respect for Hoppo and the work the local council lifeguards do and our volunteers.

“Bondi Rescue has been a great asset in educating millions of people around the world about water safety and showcasing Bondi and NSW as a tourist destination.

“I now get people from all over the world telling me that they saved a person’s life from what they learnt on Bondi Rescue which is shown in 200 countries. Many have said the message of stop swimming and float had saved their life.”

Hopkins, who has spent over 30 years working as a full-time career lifeguard at Bondi, rescuing hundreds of people from the surf, declares “I don’t want to be remembered as just the guy in that lifeguard show. I want to educate as many people as possible with the one message which will make a difference.

“If you’re struggling in the water, stop struggling, stop swimming, conserve your energy and ‘Float to Survive’.”

With his work in drowning prevention recognised by his being awarded the United States Presidential Gold Medal for his humanitarian work in 2020, he adds “at Bondi I rescue people one at a time. By educating people about ‘Float to Survive’ I can help save thousands of people from drowning worldwide.”

Click here for more information on ‘Float to Survive’ on the SEI website.

Image: Bruce Hopkins and Craig Riddington launching the ‘Float to Survive’ water safety initiative at the 2021 APOLA Conference in Wollongong.

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2nd September 2022 - City of Canterbury Bankstown to host lessons on Float to Survive techniques

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24th August 2022 - New website launched to connect community groups working on water safety efforts

23rd August 2022 - Aquatic facilities key to achieving goals of the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2030

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15th August 2022 - New Youth Aquatic Accreditation Program aims to address Victoria’s swim teacher shortage

2nd August 2022 - Laurie Lawrence instructs Western Australia’s swimming instructors

9th July 2022 - Waverley Council sacks beach lifeguards over their COVID-19 vaccine status

24th May 2022 - Conference sees APOLA ride a wave of change

13th May 2022 - Bondi Beach lifeguard facility upgrades due for completion in September

15th January 2022 - Pool closures continue to impact swimming skills and water safety

10th January 2022 - Lifeguard shortage and storm force ongoing closures of Ballarat pools

1st December 2021 - First day of summer marks National Water Safety Day

15th November 2021 - Royal Life Saving highlights ‘tens of thousands’ of job vacancies for lifeguards and swim teachers

7th May 2021 - Bruce Hopkins and Craig Riddington launch ‘Float to Survive’ water safety initiative

7th May 2021 - Review gives ‘top marks’ to Gold Coast’s professional lifeguard services

4th May 2021 - Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association conference to explore reversing rising summer drowning toll

12th April 2021 - AUSTSWIM continues to deliver training and support for swim and water safety teachers

22nd December 2020 - Lifeguard Bruce Hopkins recognised at World Leader Summit

22nd May 2019 - Federal Government won’t deliver on APOLA funding plea to reduce drownings

11th February 2019 - Politicians pledge funds but are they serious about water safety?

15th December 2017 - Leading professional lifeguard says swim between flags message is ‘desirable but unrealistic’

6th January 2017 - Bondi Rescue educates the world about beach safety

27th December 2015 - Professional Lifeguards highlight need for safety first at the beach

21st January 2010 - Professional Lifeguards reject ‘flawed’ SLSA Rip Campaign


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