A swimmer braves rough seas near North Wall yesterday where 12 backpackers put themselves in danger on Tuesday.
A swimmer braves rough seas near North Wall yesterday where 12 backpackers put themselves in danger on Tuesday.

Swept out to sea

By LUKE KEIOSKIE

THE rescue of three backpackers from dangerous surf at the North Wall Beach this week has prompted a lifeguard to question the level of knowledge tourists have about surf safety in Australia.

Twelve European backpackers were swept out to sea by a rip, around 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Nine of the swimmers managed to climb rocks to safety, however three had to be plucked from the sea and returned to the beach by lifeguards on jet skis.

The backpackers only suffered minor cuts and abrasions but Coffs Harbour City Council lifeguard services co-ordinator Greg Hackfath said it could have been worse.

"Climbing the wall isn't a great option but the swimmers were obviously in a state of panic," Mr Hackfath said.

"They're just lucky the seas weren't bigger or they would have been smashed against the rocks."

Mr Hackfath said incidents such as this happen every year and visitors to our shores must be aware of the beach conditions before they venture out.

"We have to make sure that people from overseas are directed to flagged areas to swim," he said.

"They may be unaware of how to read our beach conditions and may not realise that the absence of flags means swimming in the area is unsafe.""

But backpackers interviewed by The Advocate yesterday said they knew of the dangers Australia's beaches offered before they even stepped off the plane.

"You do hear horror stories of people being swept away and it makes you cautious, makes you swim between the flags," Elliott Sullivan, 22, of London, said.

Sadie Foster, 23, from Brighton on the south coast of England, said she knows surf safety from her Lonely Planet guide.

"I know that lifeguards patrol from 9 to 5 and you should only swim between the flags," Sadie said.

"I follow the rules and I think most backpackers do as well."

Lifeguard services co-ordinator Mr Hackfath said backpacker resorts must ensure their occupants are aware of surf safety precautions.

Coffs Harbour YHA Backpackers Resort manager Graeme Diffey said visiting backpackers are informed in a number of ways including brochures, verbal advice when they hire surfboards, and the room rental agreement recommends swimming in patrolled areas.



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