After yet another tragic drowning on the far north coast, we urge swimmers and surfers to be aware of the dangers of swimming unfit, unprepared or alone on our beaches over the break. Below from last week’s Echo is Michael McDonald’s editorial, published just hours before the sad news of another life lost.
That august institution, Surf Life Saving Australia, launched its annual National Coastal Safety Report on the weekend.
Life savers had the pleasure of the prime minister’s company for the launch in Sydney at the Queenscliff club, Mr Abbott’s turf (or sand). Fortunately for all concerned the prime minister resisted the lure of Speedos and remained fully clothed throughout the ceremony.
It was a good year for drownings, in that there were less of them. Thanks to the good work of Surf Life Saving volunteers and lifeguards, there were no drownings between the red and yellow flags, or more exactly, in the water out from the flags.
In his keen grasp of the bleeding obvious, Mr Abbott remarked, ‘If you swim between the flags you can be very confident you will be looked after and you will be safe.’
It’s one of the great Australian services which no whacky piece of legislation has been able to undermine as yet.
‘Beach patrols, surveillance and emergency response measures combined to help reduce the number of coastal drowning deaths by almost a third in 2013–14,’ notes the report. Nevertheless 84 people drowned at the beach.
Of those, 89 per cent were male. Among the blokes most of them were aged 60 to 64, of which 91 per cent died while boating, fanging about on jetskis, rock fishing or diving.
It’s a timely warning to old codgers of my age to not get pissed and go fishing without a lifejacket in a tinny with a clapped-out engine in a squall.
I’ve given it up entirely, and make sure to read books between the flags in my living room.
What amazes me is not only the number of people who get into the water drunk but also without a decent knowledge of how to handle the surf and prevailing beach currents. Beachsafe offers a good guide to rips.
Australian beaches can be deadly, and with good reason. It keeps so many people from bothering the sharks and stingers or from getting knocked out by a dolphin as they try to commune with its marine spirit.
It’s far safer to drink fruit punch under a pandanus and admire the young gun surfers riding a spray of their own testosterone into the shoreline.
Seriously though, play safely at the beach (and in swimming pools) these summer holidays because there’s nothing like a dampener on other people’s free time than you drowning in front of them. Get a good handle on swimming and less on the drinking.
And if you are of the male persuasion and aged 60 to 64, then by the plaited beard of Neptune stay well away from the ocean.
PS If you are on the beach Christmas day, remember to show your appreciation for the volunteer who is giving up his or her time to guard your life.
SLSC patrols for Byron Bay this festive season:
Thursday 25.12.2014. PATROL NO 13: 9am–5pm
Kim Chappel PC, Grace Hamilton APC, Zoe Heiniger, Ela Heiniger, Dan Andrew (D,J/S), Ian Heiniger, Brand Hunt, Jack Traynor, Brooke Yopp, Ben Martin, Andrew Cameron, Gabriel Crescenzo,
Friday 26.12.14. PATROL NO 6: 9am–5pm
Sarah Beadman PC(D), Jamie Bridgman APC (D), Nikki Rountree, Keith Renders, Joe Avery, Vicki McCain, Andrew Houlder, Max Hulbert, Roger Beadman (D,J/S) Ian & Liz Callan, Robert Brown, Robert Siebert (D), Gai Coleman
Saturday 27.12.14. PATROL NO 18: 9am–5pm
Kelli Stevens PC, Michael Stevens APC (D), Alex Byrne (D), Ziggi Jacks, Luke Mewing, Andrew Crawley, Jed Morrison, Roggrio Gaglianone,Johnny Valladares Gonzales, Nic Hornery, Riley Buckley, Dean Templeman,Lachlan Holmes
Sunday 28.12.14 PATROL NO 9: 9am–5pm
Garry Timperley PC (D), Jo Kay APC , Bob Kay,Isabella / Will Jones, Alicia Beale, Jy Timperley, Tracey Timperley, Steve Moore, Gabi Kay, Madeline Adams, Scout Hembrow, Alex Barnes, Talli Hooper, Lucy Guye, Brad Smith, Moby McMullin, Stephen Martin/Grant (D) x2
Thursday 1.1.2015 PATROL NO 2: 9am–5pm
Paul Pattison PC, Paul Irwin APC (D), Jack Phelps, Karen Irwin, Tim Peacock,Grace Pattison, Alan Teurquetil, Ron Land, George Graham,David Packer
Saturday 3.1.2015 PATROL NO 3: 9am–5pm
Jake Napoli PC, Cody Prasser APC, Ian Mathieson, Andrea/Ronny Monks (D), Jason Michan, Beau/Christian Monks, James Gibson, Neil Cameron (D), Bruce Campbell, Andrew Hall, Joe Kerrigan
Sunday 4.1.2015 PATROL NO 16: 9am–5pm
Jimmy Keough PC (D), Michio McMullen APC, Gary Khan, Alistair Mactier (D), James Hawley, Matt Dowling, Col Mustoe, Kim Wilson, Kane Ridley, James Kitchner, Matt Larsson, Anthony Barchard, Todd Seymour, Tom Lee Lewis.