Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is pleading with beachgoers to swim sober and stick to the flagged areas when they hit the water this Australia Day, and to be mindful of dangerous surf conditions forecast across South East Queensland.
SLSQ is desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s tragedy, which saw a 19-year-old man drown just after midnight on the Gold Coast after entering the water following Australia Day celebrations.
In years gone by, lifesavers have been forced to spend significant amounts of time on Australia Day responding to incidents involving intoxicated swimmers, and SLSQ chief lifeguard Greg Cahill said enough was enough.
“There’s no doubt the majority of beachgoers on Australia Day are really well behaved but it’s unfortunate that every year we still see some people head for a swim under the influence of alcohol, which always leads to trouble,” he said.
“What most people don’t seem to realise in those situations is that they’re not only risking their own lives, but they’re also putting our volunteer members and lifeguards into potentially dangerous situations as well.
“Lifeguards and lifesavers are just like anyone else, and they want to get home safely to their family at the end of the day.
“We know that people will be out for a good time on Australia Day and we’re certainly not trying to take that away – all we’re asking is for people to hit the beach and do their swimming before they hit the drinks,” he said.
Traditionally speaking, Australia Day is one of the busiest days of the year for surf lifesavers and lifeguards, as large crowds flock to the beach to beat the heat and make the most of remaining summer holidays.
In fact, last year Queensland’s red and yellow army of lifesavers and lifeguards performed some 9,781 preventative actions, 189 first aid treatments and saved 73 lives through in-water rescues on Australia Day alone.
With dangerous surf conditions forecast across South East Queensland in the coming days, Mr Cahill encouraged all beachgoers to swim only between the red and yellow flags, which are patrolled by qualified surf lifesavers and lifeguards.
“At the end of the day we want beachgoers to remember their Australia Day for all the right reasons – the last thing we want is for someone to make a silly decision which they’ll regret,” he said.
Beachgoers are encouraged to follow these simple guidelines to enjoy an incident-free Australia Day:
• Swim between the red and yellow flags
• Look for and follow the advice of safety signs
• If you’re unsure about the conditions, ask a lifesaver or lifeguard on duty before entering the water
• Always swim with a friend where possible
• If you find yourself in trouble, put your hand up for help
• Never swim at night or at unpatrolled locations