Please play it safe on the beach

WITH record numbers of people expected to flock to Coffs Coast beaches over summer, surf lifesavers have issued a warning to beachgoers to take particular care in the water and remember to swim between the flags.

The warning comes in response to new figures from Surf Life Saving Australia that shows an increase in the number of coastal drowning deaths.

Last summer saw a 13 per cent increase in coastal drowning deaths across the nation.

Tragically, this number equates to one coastal drowning death every two days and contributes to 40 percent of total coastal drowning deaths for the year.

Complacency appears to be a contributing factor in the rising death toll, with all coastal drowning deaths over the year taking place outside the flags.

Surf Lifesaver of the Year, Andrew Bedford, warns how important it is to heed the advice of lifesavers this summer, or inevitably more lives will be lost.

“Coastal drowning deaths are on the increase and this may be attributed to a growing complacency and increased risk-taking behaviour in the surf. The safest place to swim this summer is between the flags - if we can't see you, we can't save you,” Mr Bedford said.

Beach visitation is at its peak between December and January and the risk to beachgoers is amplified as children experiment with their new Christmas gifts in the surf.

Recreational equipment and toys can pose a serious risk in the surf and contribute to a significant proportion of preventative actions and rescues at this time of the year.

“In my experience gifts like jet skis, inflatable tyres and boards, bodyboards, kite surfboards and windsurfers are responsible for a number of warnings and rescues performed by surf lifesavers over the Christmas break,” Mr Bedford said.

“We urge parents to seek the advice of the patrolling surf lifesavers or lifeguards when it comes to recreational equipment and to keep a close eye on their children to ensure the safety of everyone in the water.”

Surf Life Saving Australia recommends the following precautions when it comes to using recreational devices in the surf:

• Always read the instructions before use.

• Before heading into the surf with new aquatic equipment, test it out in flat, calm water.

• Children should be supervised by adults at all times.

• Bodyboard riders (on soft boards) should ride between the flags but to minimise risk to other swimmers should stick to the edge of the flagged area.

• Experienced body board riders and those with hard-edged or fibreglass boards should stay outside the flags - in the area marked by the blue signs and flags. It is also a good idea to alert surf lifesavers or lifeguards on patrol to ensure they can see you.

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