Surf lifesavers are pleading with beachgoers to put safety first this summer, launching a new campaign aimed at curbing an alarming and recent spike in drownings.
The new push comes after a tragic 12 months along Queensland’s coastline, with 21 people tragically losing their lives in 2018/19.
With the peak holiday period officially kicking off this weekend, SLSQ Chief Executive Officer Dave Whimpey called on all beachgoers to exercise care and caution in the surf.
“Twenty-one drownings on Queensland beaches last season was a devastating outcome and, quite frankly, it’s something we never want to see again,” he said.
“There were a number of drownings last season within 500 metres of a patrol service and you can’t help but think how many of those people would still be alive today if they’d only walked an extra five minutes to find the flags.”
The new campaign, launched today, will run across the coming weeks as a reminder for beachgoers to put safety first at all times.
Mr Whimpey said the use of an older male as the central character was a deliberate strategy following 12 drownings last year involving men aged over 50.
“In years gone by it’s been younger males who were most ‘at risk’ of drowning but more recently, we’ve seen a clear shift towards older beachgoers,” he said.
“Tragically, already this season we’ve seen a male aged in his late 50s drown off the coast of North Stradbroke Island while kitesurfing.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have in the ocean, if you’re not putting safety first, then you’re putting your life on the line.
“A number of drownings last year came after swimmers suffered a medical episode in the water, so we’re also encouraging any beachgoers approaching, or aged over 50, to visit their doctor for regular check-ups.”
Extended services to help keep beachgoers safe:
Surf lifesavers and lifeguards are bracing for huge crowds over the Christmas holidays, with extended and additional patrol services to be rolled out from this weekend onwards.
Starting tomorrow, SLSQ patrols will be extended across the state, with the flags at most beaches set to be raised from 7:00am to 6:00pm.
Increased roving and jet ski patrols will also be rolled out at identified high-risk locations, while the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service will provide critical aerial support across the state’s south-east.
Select patrols will also be using drone technology this summer to help increase coastal safety, while SLSQ’s 24/7 emergency response groups will remain on-call around-the-clock to assist with any unfolding emergencies.
Despite the additional services, Mr Whimpey said it was critical for beachgoers to consider their safety and always swim between the flags.
“It’s summer, the holidays are about to kick-off and the temperatures are scorching, so we’re expecting huge crowds over the coming weeks and months,” he said.
“Our surf lifesavers and lifeguards will obviously be working hard to keep everyone safe, but we need your help too.
“We’re urging all beachgoers to swim only at patrolled locations and stay between the red and yellow flags at all times. We’ll have extended patrol hours in operation, so there’s plenty of time for everyone to get down to the beach and cool off safely in the surf.”