Coffs Harbour city council lifeguard Craig Freeman at Northwall beach. 24 March 2016.
Coffs Harbour city council lifeguard Craig Freeman at Northwall beach. 24 March 2016. Trevor Veale

Drownings serve as a warning to swimmers

TWO men who drowned at Park Beach earlier this week have been said to be swimming south of the flags in a location notorious for a powerful rip current.

Coffs Harbour City Council lifeguard Greg Hackfath said the location the pair were rescued is a dangerous part of the beach because of that known rip.

"Rips kill more people than sharks, boating accidents and so many other water activities than anything else," he said.

This week's fatalities serve as strong reminder for locals and holidaymakers to be beach-safe this long weekend.

North Coast Surf Life Saving and its director Sue Neil are campaigning to the North Coast region to be aware of beach warnings and swim between the red and yellow flags.

Ms Neil says a common issue identified by clubs is beach-goers who can't be bothered to walk further down the beach to the flags.

"They should be bothered because these people are trained in certain awards to go out and save you when you are in trouble," Ms Neil said.

She said locals and holiday-goers shouldn't be deceived by calm-looking water from the sand.

"People just presume because it's smooth it's safe and because there's no big waves, they'll be safe."

Most importantly, Ms Neil said swimmers should have a chat with volunteer lifesavers and paid lifeguards if they are ever in doubt about where to swim.

"If you have any questions we have a mixture of males and females, old and young and they are all willing to help and give instruction as to where the best place is to surf and enjoy your holiday and enjoy the water," she said.

Despite the "myriad diversity of population in Australia", Mr Hackfath said Australians and visitors of all cultural backgrounds needed to be conscious of their swimming ability when taking to the ocean.

"It's about respecting your own abilities as much as anything else, if they aren't strong swimmers they should recognise the fact that they're not strong swimmers and stay in waist-deep water," he said.

"We aren't saying you won't get in trouble in the flags but at least it's supervised and you've got a lot better chance of being rescued than what you have if you're 600 or 800 metres north or south of the patrol or at a completely unpatrolled beach."


  • Darker water patches
  • A clam area in the surf zone with waves breaking either side
  • Discoloured, foamy or sandy water running away from the shoreline
  • Rip currents are very common around rocks, headlands, river mouths or piers


  • Swim parallel to the beach
  • For assistance, stay calm, float and raise your arm to get attention
  • To conserve energy, waves can assist you back to shore

SOURCE: Surf Life Saving Australia

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