How can I keep my children safe at the beach?

While lifeguards and lifesavers watch over you and your children when in the water, children require constant parent/adult supervision when visiting the beach or when they are around any body of water. You should:

  • Keep them at arms’ reach at all times.
  • Put them in bright swimming suits which are easy to see.
  • Identify an easy to find point on the beach, such as the lifeguard tower, where the child can go to if you are separated.

Why is it dangerous to drink alcohol at the beach?

Every year many people get into difficulty, both on the beach and in the surf, due to the effects of alcohol. Drinking alcohol and swimming is a dangerous combination leading to impaired judgement, lack of coordination and reaction time, and an inability to control your body temperature.

What should I know about waves and a large surf?

While waves are one of the most enjoyable features of the beach and ocean, they are affected by different conditions.

Plunging/dumping waves break suddenly and can knock you over and throw you to the bottom with great force. These waves usually occur at low tide where sandbanks are shallow. They can cause injuries to swimmers, particularly spinal and head injuries, so you should never try and bodysurf on one of these waves. If in doubt ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety advice.

Spilling waves have white water tumbling down the face of the wave. They usually have less force and are the safest for body surfing. They are found in sheltered bays where the sea floor slopes gradually, and near sandbanks at high tide.

Surging waves may never actually break as they approach the water’s edge because the water below them is very deep. These waves occur in rocky areas around cliff faces and where the beach drops off quickly. They can be very dangerous because they can knock swimmers over and drag them back into deep water.

Large surf should only be attempted by experienced swimmers, and only between the red and yellow flags. Swimmers should also avoid creek and river mouths when a large surf is running because the currents in these areas are often stronger.

Do I need to worry about rip currents?

Rip currents (sometimes called a ‘rip’) are the number one hazard on Australian beaches and cause on average 19 deaths every year. These are strong currents beginning around the shore that run away from the beach. Being caught in one may feel like you are in a flowing/moving river. Not all rip currents flow directly out to sea. Some may run parallel to the beach before ultimately heading out to sea.

If you find yourself in a rip current, follow these steps:

  • Do not panic.
  • Raise an arm and call out for help, you may be rescued.
  • Float with the current, it may return you to a shallow sandbank.
  • Swim parallel to the beach or towards the breaking waves until you escape the rip current.

How do spinal injuries happen at the beach?

Every year, a number of spinal injuries occur around the beach by accident, and through participation in high-risk activities. They most commonly happen by:

  • being dumped head first by a wave
  • diving head first into the water
  • jumping off rocks (sometimes called ‘tombstoning’)
  • hitting submerged objects other than the sea floor

Any neck soreness or pain should be treated as a potential spinal injury.

Make sure you are safe when swimming at the beach:

  • Get a friend to swim with you.
  • Tell others of your plans if you go alone.
  • Stick your hand up, stay calm, and call for help if you get into trouble. You should conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm if you are in trouble. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until assistance arrives.

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