Surf safety for foreign students

INTERNATIONAL university students calling the Coffs Coast home have learnt the key beach safety lesson – “white is right and green is mean.”

The easy-to-remember slogan was highlighted by Coffs Harbour lifeguards during a day at the beach pointing out the dangers of rips.

“We explained that where there’s whitewash there are sandbanks, and it’s much shallower compared to where they’ll find green water where the rips and undercurrents occur,” the council’s head lifeguard, Greg Hackfath, said.

“There’s evidence to suggest this is the best way to inform people who have little experience in swimming on our beaches about surf safety.

“While it’s all well and good to tell them to swim between the red and yellow flags, research shows that overseas visitors can take this message quite literally.

“If they can’t swim and instead go to the beach to bathe, they believe the patrolled area is for swimming only, so they often take to the most dangerous parts of the beach, where the water is still, not knowing they are walking out into a rip.

“In addition just 3 per cent of beaches in Australia are patrolled, and people often swim outside of beach patrol hours, so really surf survival is the best message we can pass onto these students."

The lifeguards gave demonstrations on how to tread water, spot rips and raise the alarm if they get into trouble.

Pointers were also given on swimming with and not against currents and using flotation devices.

Southern Cross University international student adviser My Holland said 50 new students from India, China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany took part in the lesson.

“It’s very important for our international students to be aware of the dangers of the Australian surf,” Ms Holland said.

“We have seen cases where overseas visitors have drowned in the local area due to a lack of knowledge on beach safety.

“We want our students’ stays to be safe and the beach is a great way for them to enjoy their time in Coffs Harbour.”

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