With schoolies celebrations set to kick off across NSW and southern Queensland from this weekend, surf life savers and life guards are pleading with young revellers to make surf safety a priority.
A recent report has found that almost a third of all drowning deaths in NSW resulted from people swimming after drinking alcohol, with 15–24 year olds the most at risk.
With young schoolies often mixing alcohol with their celebrations, Lifeguards and Byron Council are worried about the possibility of a preventable tragedy occurring if teenagers take unnecessary risks in the ocean.
During the two-week schoolies peak period from November 18 the Australian Lifeguard Service will be deploying an extra lifeguard to deal with the influx of beachgoers at schoolies hot spot, Main Beach in Byron Bay.
Scott McCartney, northern NSW lifeguard coordinator, says lifeguards are going above and beyond this year and will be running daily surf safety talks, conducting roving patrols and focusing on emphasising safe swimming practices along Byron Main Beach for the entirety of the schoolies period.
‘It’s important to have a safe and enjoyable time at schoolies’, said Mr McCartney. ‘Never mix drugs or alcohol with swimming, don’t swim at night, always swim between the red and yellow flags, and if you need assistance don’t hesitate to approach the lifeguards.’
Lifeguards and life savers will be out reinforcing the ‘Don’t Drink and Swim’ safety message in the key holiday hotspots up and down the NSW coast including Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Merimbula.
The Schoolies Safety Checklist is:
Only swim at a patrolled beach, between the red and yellow flags;
Don’t swim under the influence of alcohol/drugs;
Never swim at night;
Ask a surf life saver or lifeguard for advice;
Look after your mates;
Call ‘000 – Police’ to report an in-water emergency.
A Beachsafe iPhone app has been created to bring together numerous data sources and databases managed by SLSA.
Go to www.beachsafe.org.au for info on patrolled beaches, hours of operation, beach status and conditions.