Surf lifesavers are urging Schoolies to let their hair down, but not their guards down, when they flock to the beach for celebrations next week.
Thousands of graduates will hit the beach over the coming weeks, with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) Gold Coast coordinator Nathan Fife urging them to take care, look after their mates, and avoid swimming after consuming alcohol.
“Every year we see Schoolies enter the water while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and it never ends well,” he said.
“You can feel bulletproof at that age, but we’ve seen plenty of rescues, near-drownings, and serious incidents in the past after Schoolies have entered the surf at night or after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
“We obviously want everyone to have a great time and enjoy the Gold Coast, but it’s important to remember that one foolish decision can literally have life and death consequences.
“We’re really encouraging anyone heading to the beach to put safety first at all times and only enter the water between the flags and during patrol hours,” he said.
SLSQ’s army of surf lifesavers will be out in force across the state over the Schoolies Week festivities, with regular beach patrols supported by daily dawn patrols on the Gold Coast from 4:30am. Meanwhile, council lifeguards will continue their regular patrols along the coast.
In addition, SLSQ’s 24/7 emergency response teams will remain on standby around the clock to assist if needed, while the Westpac Helicopter will also be performing regular patrols across south east Queensland.
“Our services will be out in force across the week to help watch over and protect beachgoers, but we’re asking anyone who’s had a bit to drink to steer well clear of the water,” Mr Fife said.
“Drinking alcohol not only slows your reflexes, but significantly impairs your judgement in the water as well which can be a deadly combination in the surf.”
Mr Fife also called on Schoolies to look out for their mates, and seek medical help if needed.
“If one of your friends is seriously affected by drugs or alcohol, it’s really important to make sure they get the help they need as soon as possible,” he said.
“Sometimes young people in that situation begin to panic and get too worried about the possible consequences to seek outside help, but the health and safety of you and your friends should always come first.
“The most important thing to do in a situation like that is send for help immediately by dialling triple zero, or contacting the Schoolies hotline,” he said.
Schoolies surf safety tips:
Always swim between the red and yellow flags
Look at and follow the safety signs
Ask a surf lifesaver or lifeguard for advice
Get a friend to swim with you
Signal with your hand for help if you get into trouble
Don’t sleep on the sand
Never swim at night or under the influence of alcohol and drugs