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Surf Life Saving Australia highlight the dangers of rip currents along Australia’s coast

Surf Life Saving Australia highlight the dangers of rip currents along Australia’s coast
December 17, 2020

As summer school holidays commence across Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia is urging visitors to the coast this summer to be aware of the number one hazard on Australian beaches, rip currents.

On average 21 people die every year as a result of rip currents, with rips being the number one swimming hazard in the country. 55% of victims able to touch the bottom at the time they were caught in the rip.

With 4.2 million Australians admitting they have unintentionally been caught in a rip, Surf Life Saving Australia General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw ESM said the message this summer is to swim only at patrolled locations and have a plan.

Daw notes “our message this summer is simple, keep your friends and family safe by swimming at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.

“If you do find yourself at an unpatrolled location, STOP, LOOK and PLAN before entering the water.

“Research shows us that two out three people who thought they knew what a rip looked like, in fact were unable to identify a rip current correctly.”

Rip survivors and families of those who have lost loved ones in rip currents, have fronted the Surf Life Saving Think Line campaign, designed to encourage all beach goers to draw a line in the sand and make a plan before entering the water.

The campaign is calling for people to Stop and not rush into the water; Look to observe the area of potential hazards such as rips and; Plan to swim between the red and yellow flags, but if unavailable, enter the water only if safe to do so.

Daw added “there are 17,000 rip currents across Australia on any given day, with one in four people rarely or never looking for a rip before they swim.

“People can get complacent when they are close to shore. But the reality is 55% of people who drowned in a rip current could stand or touch the bottom when they were caught in a rip.

“We are expecting another busy summer on our beaches and while the patrolled beaches may be busy, they are the best place for people to enjoy our iconic coast safely.”

The recently released Coastal Safety Brief on Rip Currents by Surf Life Saving Australia, has also shown that 13% of rip-related deaths (2004-2020) involved a member of the public, or bystander, attempting to rescue someone who had got into trouble.

Bystanders represent the only form of assistance to those in distress at unpatrolled locations and outside of unpatrolled hours and therefore provide a significant and valuable service to the community. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the bystander themselves to drown while attempting a rescue in the ocean.

Fatal bystander rescues have been found to be strongly linked with rip currents, with bystanders (usually family or friends) going to the aid of someone in difficulty, which is often a child or adolescent under 18 years old.

Of the 67 bystander fatalities (2004-2020), rip currents were a factor in three out of four incidents (73%) while the majority (97%) did not use a floatation device in their attempted rescue.

Daw continued “any drowning or fatality is tragic, however when a person goes to the aid of others and loses their life in the process it is even more devastating.

“Swimming at patrolled beaches, understanding what to do in an emergency and not putting yourself at risk is essential as things can go wrong very quickly.

“Taking a couple of seconds to STOP, LOOK, PLAN could make a big difference. Simple things like not rushing in and grabbing a floatation device can help reduce the chance of drowning.”

To understand more about rip currents, how to spot a rip and to find out your nearest patrolled beach, visit

Image courtesy of SLSA

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