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Float to Survive message demonstrated in ocean rip at Sydney’s Manly Beach

Float to Survive message demonstrated in ocean rip at Sydney’s Manly Beach
January 23, 2023

A demonstration of the Float to Survive message has been performed today at Sydney’s Manly Beach with Craig Riddington and Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins of Surf Educators International (SEI) taking Manly Sea Eagles players Reuben Garrick, Karl Lawton, Jason Saab and coach Anthony Seibold into the sea to show them how to respond if caught in an ocean rip.

Riddington and Hopkins used the NRL stars to show the dangers of ocean rips to even the healthiest of young adults, showing the benefits of float when caught in a rip to enhance their survival chances in the ocean if caught in a rip.

Along with former Ironman Riddington, Hopkins is the public face of the Float to Survive initiative.

As Waverley Council Head Lifeguard and star of the hit TV show, Bondi Rescue, Hopkins has spent over 30 years working as a full-time professional lifeguard at Bondi Beach and has rescued hundreds of people from the surf.

Concerned about drowning numbers, particularly during the current summer, Hopkins stated “Float to Survive is a simple message but it maximises your chance of survival.”

The message differs from Surf Life Saving Australia’s mantra to ‘swim between the flags’ as it takes account that not all beaches are patrolled and even on patrolled beaches, people to get into difficulties away from flagged areas.

Supported by Sydney’s Waverley and Randwick Councils in NSW, which is marketing the message throughout the two local government areas this summer, the University of NSW is conducting  surveys this summer to see if the Float to Survive message resonates with their residents.

Depending on the results Matt Thistlethwaite MP for Kingsford Smith who is championing the message will seek federal funding to promote Float to Survive as a national drowning prevention message.

Ian Lee from Aquatic Safety Consultants Australia notes “people only remember one or two things.

“Telling somebody to swim between the flags doesn’t help those enjoying the inland waterways. Float to Survive is a great message. Many people drown because they exhaust themselves before help arrives.”

The strategy can be used in any aquatic situation whether it is in the surf, creek, river, lake or swimming pool.

However, the frustration for Hopkins is seeing record funding for water safety being provided yet drownings are still increasing.

As he noted “obviously we are missing something.

“Going back to basics is the answer.

“Educating people to stop swimming and float when they get in trouble should be our national water safety message.

“I’ve seen too many drownings where people struggle and use all their energy and drown because they can’t keep their head above the water. We have to educate people to resist their instinct to struggle and fight the water and simply float.”

The Float to Survive campaign received a confidence boost when he discovered that Britain’s largest ocean safety provider the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) developed a similar water safety campaign a few years ago.

Their campaign ‘Float to Live’ is supported by research undertaken at the University of Portsmouth by Professor of Human and Applied Physiology Mike Tipton.

Professor Tipton’s research showed that if people fought the instinct to struggle when in the water and simply floated, they greatly increased their chance of survival. SAS Australia host, Ant Middleton was also an ambassador for the campaign in the UK.

Professor Tipton explains “education is a really critical component feeding into preventative medicine.

“So, if people know what’s going to happen to them when they go in the water, they tend to deal with it better - we’ve done studies that prove that. If they know how to behave and you teach how to behave, then survivability just goes up off the scale.

“You’ve simply got to have the confidence to do nothing and to fight that instinct to thrash bout and swim”.

Today’s event at Manly Beach attracted significant media interest, with 7News, Nine News and Channel 10 in attendance.

Images: Manly Sea Eagles players in a rip at Manly Beach today (top), players Reuben Garrick, Karl Lawton, Jason Saab and coach Anthony Seibold with Craig Riddington, Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins of Surf Educators International (middle) and Riddington wearing a Float to Survive rash vest (below).

Related Articles

19th January 2023 - Blacktown City Council’s Swim Sense programs looks to tackle adult drowning toll

10th January 2023 - Life Saving Victoria reiterates the importance of supervision as child drowning risk identified

7th January 2023 - Renewed water safety warnings issued after Surf Life Saving NSW records staggering rescue numbers

30th December 2022 - 10 Australians dead in water accidents as water safety bodies urge caution through holidays

24th December 2022 - Aquatic industry braces for a uniquely challenging holiday season

2nd December 2022 - Randwick City and Waverley councils launch Float to Survive initiative to reduce national drownings 

9th November 2022 - More than 500 children lose their lives to drowning over past two decades

7th November 2022 - Surf Life Saving Australia recognises its top surf lifesavers

23rd September 2022 - Float to Survive safety message to be trialled by Waverley and Randwick Councils

18th September 2022 - Professional ocean lifeguard patrols ramping up for summer

17th September 2022 - Rising drowning toll prompts AUSTSWIM to emphasise importance of educating new swimming teachers

17th September 2022 - Sunshine Coast Council to spend $5.7 million on lifeguard services this financial year

16th September 2022 - 2021/22 drowning toll the highest in more than 25 years

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

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

16th August 2022 - Surf Life Saving Australia research explores impacts of alcohol and drug intoxication on coastal deaths

5th August 2022 - Swim It Forward 2022 campaign launched by Swim Australia ahead of peak drowning season

4th August 2022 - Water Safety experts gather for Sydney Summit

28th July 2022 - Move to wear historic pride jersey by NRL’s Manly results in player boycott

22nd July 2022 - AUSTSWIM to mark World Drowning Prevention Day with discounted courses for new teachers

22nd July 2022 - Key Royal Life Saving research shows drowning risk of dams, ponds and irrigation channels

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

22nd April 2022 - Royal Life Saving contributes to new research highlighting global drowning prevention

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

7th January 2022 - Staff shortages impact Gold Coast’s lifeguard team and close Upper Coomera Aquatic Centre

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

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

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

15th March 2021 - Northern Beaches Council improving outdoor hospitality in Manly

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

28th February 2019 - US-based aquatic safety consultants award Wet’n'Wild Sydney lifeguards

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

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

18th February 2012 - Sun and Surf attracts the crowds to Manly


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