Understanding the ocean is very important – the more you know about how waves, wind and tides affect conditions in the water, the better able you are to keep yourself safe, or even rescue others, from danger. Recognising danger signs and awareness of surf conditions is an essential part of lifesaving.
REMEMBER F-L-A-G-S and stay safe this summer…
- F Find the flags and swim between them – the red and yellow flags mark the safest place to swim at the beach.
- L Look at the safety signs – they help you identify potential dangers and daily conditions at the beach.
- A Ask a surf lifesaver for some good advice – surf conditions can change quickly so talk to a surf lifesaver or lifeguard before entering the water.
- G Get a friend to swim with you – so you can look out for each other’s safety and get help if needed. Children should always be supervised by an adult.
- S Stick your hand up for help – if you get into trouble in the water, stay calm, raise your arm to signal for help. Float with a current or rip – don’t try and swim against it.
- Never swim at unpatrolled beaches
- Never ever swim at night
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol
- Never run and dive into the water
- Never swim directly after a meal
The Surf Environment
The following features will alert you to the presence of a rip:
- darker colour, indicating deeper water
- murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom
- smoother surface with much smaller waves, alongside white water (broken waves)
- waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip
- debris floating out to sea
- a rippled look, when the water around is generally calm
Escaping from a Rip
If you are caught in a rip:
- Don’t Panic – stay calm
- If you are a strong swimmer, swim at a 45 degree angle across the rip and in the same direction as the current until you reach the breaking wave zone, then return to shore
- If you are a weak or tired swimmer, float with the current, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore for about 30 – 40m until you reach the breaking wave zone, then swim back to shore or signal for help.
- Remember to stay calm and conserve your energy.
Negotiating the surf
Spilling waves are best for body surfing, but if you can catch a plunging wave you can avoid injury by somersaulting out before it breaks.
- As the wave is almost upon you, push off the bottom or start swimming toward shore until you feel the wave begin to lift and carry you.
- As the wave breaks, take a breath, put your head down and kick hard until your body breaks through. Your feet should be together, your back arched slightly and your arms extended in front of you. As the wave becomes steeper, tilt forward and surf along the wave’s face.
- You will probably have to paddle a bit to hold your position on the wave. Try to keep your body straight.
- As you approach the beach, pull out of the wave by turning your body away from the wave’s breaking force, or jackknife dive and let the wave pass over your body.