Surf Skills

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The lifestyle in Australia is endless, with many options available for all to take advantage of our natural assets – particularly the magnificent beaches surrounding our coastline.

These beaches are usually on everyone’s list during the warm weather – to spend time relaxing and providing plenty of fun for families and individuals, who in this great natural atmosphere enjoy a wide variety of activities like picnics, swimming, surf board riding and playing.

While we all enjoy these fruits of life every year, we must be aware of the perils associated with being on a beach and entering the enticing water and its waves.

The majority of our surf beaches are patrolled by a hearty band of surf lifesavers, who designate the best areas for all to swim with flags and patrols.

Surf lifesaving officially began in 1907, with its beginnings at various beaches around the 1870s – started after many drownings at Sydney beaches.

From these humble beginnings, there are today more than 140,000 lifesavers across Australia, who are highly skilled in identifying dangers and saving lives.

In our region we have enticing beaches and surf clubs where we head to enjoy the fun of the surf; however, we must be aware that while beaches look harmless, they are the scene of many tragedies.

Thousands of beach goers have their lives saved and are treated for first aid during the months between September to April; sadly, some are not so lucky, ending in tragedy.

In a short time surfing conditions can change. There are rips, plus the consumption of alcohol and effects of dehydration reduces our ability to be completely focused.

It is essential to have some knowledge of the potential dangers at local beaches, so it is timely to refresh your memory with some safety tips from Surf Lifesaving Australia.

We must know the basic rules and swim or surf at patrolled beaches; swim between flags; never swim, surf or fish alone; always read and obey the signs; and learn how to identify rips and currents.

The cause of most rescues and drowning deaths are rip currents, which are considered the major hazard on Australian beaches. Also important is to never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Rips are dangerous; they sweep swimmers away from beaches. Often swimmers drown when they attempt to fight the rips, become exhausted and panic.

This danger doesn’t only affect non-swimmers, but good swimmers too.

It is very easy to be caught in a rip, even when wading in the surf only waist deep. The water can drag a person into deeper waters, making it difficult – particularly if you cannot swim to shore.

It is important to know that approximately three hours before and after daily low tides, rips are very dangerous and flow their fastest.

The above danger may seem daunting; however, surf lifesaving have a few tips if you experience being caught in a rip.

They suggest it is essential to stay calm, float along with the tide and raise your arm towards the beach patrols to attract attention to gain assistance.

Swimmers are advised the best method to leave a rip is to swim parallel to the beach, because there is a good chance the waves will assist you back to shore and conserve your energy.

If you are a parent and have children who enjoy our beaches, then it is recommended after they learn to swim and become proficient that they extend their knowledge and ability.

For a few hours every week, take them to your local surf club to learn more and join the junior surf program called Nippers, for 5 to 13-year-olds.

They will enjoy the experience and grow in confidence and learn valuable life skills and knowledge.

Spending time at the beach is terrific fun and enjoyable, but we all must be aware of the dangers.

Have a great and safe summer.

Story by Peter Lyne.

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