Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is urging beachgoers to ‘ditch the drink’ and swim sober when they hit the water this Australia Day long-weekend, particularly with unpredictable conditions and tidal movements forecast across the state.
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 lifesaving services manager Peta Lawlor said enough was enough.
“The majority of beachgoers on Australia Day are really well behaved but, unfortunately, each year we still see some people head down for a swim after consuming a few drinks, and it always leads to trouble,” she said.
“People can sometimes think they’re invincible after a few drinks, but alcohol not only impairs your judgement, it also slows your reflexes and blunts reaction times which can be a potentially deadly combination when in the surf.
“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.
“We know that people will be out for a good time over the weekend and we certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from kicking back at the beach and enjoying themselves – all we’re asking is that people hit the beach and do their swimming before they hit the drinks,” she 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 9,973 preventative actions, 250 first aid treatments and saved 128 lives through in-water rescues across the Australia Day long weekend.
Ms Lawlor said it was particularly important for beachgoers to exercise caution this long weekend, with forecast weather and the arrival of king tides expected to cause unpredictable and potentially-dangerous coastal conditions across the state.
“King tides can often create hazardous conditions by strengthening rips, exposing rocks and floating debris, and increasing the risk of swimmers being swept out to sea as large volumes of water move quickly,” she said.
“With these potentially dangerous conditions, it’s really important that beachgoers consider their safety. All open beaches could suffer from increased rips and currents as a result of the weather and tidal movements and, even at more protected beaches, swimmers still need to exercise caution.”
Ms Lawlor 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,” she said.