Summer means swimming! Follow these tips to stay safe in the water
Swimming is synonymous with the Aussie summer. There’s nothing like the feeling of immersing yourself in the water on a hot day, whether it’s at the beach, a pool, a river, a lake or other waterhole.
But this wonderful pastime requires smart choices or else it can end in tragedy. In 2021, 294 people drowned in Australia. This is a 20 percent increase on the previous year, with life-saving organisations saying that the impact of lockdowns is partly to blame. There was also a 150 percent increase in rescues.
It’s not just the beach where swimmers get into trouble – the number of people drowning in inland rivers and waterways increased by more than half during this time.
As we prepare to celebrate Australia Day and head into the hottest months of the year, please educate yourself about the risks, know how to make sensible decisions and avoid peer pressure. It may save your life – or that of someone you care about.
Read this before you dive in
- Only swim at a patrolled beach with other people, and always stay between the red and yellow flags. The BeachSafe website and app show nearby patrolled beaches and where there might be hazards in the water.
- If you’re a weak swimmer or someone in your group is, choose a council pool with a lifeguard on duty instead of the beach, or use lifejackets.
- Rips are the number one beach hazard, and they can be unpredictable and dangerous even for confident swimmers. Do you know how to recognise a rip and what to do if you’re caught in one?
- Know your limits. You may think you’re capable in the water but don’t overestimate your abilities. Veteran lifesaver Dr Shayne Baker says that a strong swimmer is someone who swims at least 12–16 kilometres a week.
- Never swim after you’ve had alcohol or drugs. Research by the Royal Life Saving Society Australia found 40 per cent of the men who fatally drowned in the past decade had drugs or alcohol in their systems.
- If someone you’re with gets into trouble, seek expert help and don’t try to rescue them yourself. Bystander rescues often involve the death of both the person attempting the rescue and the person in trouble.
- Learn first aid. Australians have low rates of CPR knowledge, so empower yourself by doing a short course through DUSA or organisations like the Australian Red Cross and St John Ambulance Australia.
- Be Sunsmart. Don’t come home from a lovely day of swimming only to discover you’re sunburnt. As well as being an uncomfortable, peeling mess for a few days, you’re also putting yourself at risk of developing skin cancer – which can happen at any age. Find out how to protect yourself from Australia’s most common form of cancer while still enjoying the great outdoors.
Don’t miss our free water safety program!
If you’re not very confident in the water, or you’d like to refresh your water safety skills after a long break, take advantage of our upcoming free classes at beautiful Ocean Grove Beach. Open to all students, you’ll find this program particularly helpful if you don’t have a lot of swimming experience. (There are also upcoming lessons planned for Warrnambool and Melbourne, so stay tuned for more info!)
These aren’t formal learn-to-swim classes – rather, qualified instructors will explain water safety theory and demonstrate some practical skills like body boarding and rescue strategies. You’ll then be able to take a dip and put your newfound expertise into action in a supervised environment.
Also check out Play it Safe by the Water and LifeSaving Victoria for more water safety information and resources, including in languages other than English. You can also follow Life Saving Victoria on Facebook for regular updates.