Similarly, Austrialias famous surfing beaches can be dangerous if you're not
familiar with conditions in the surf.
Safety in the Surf!
If you're one of our Sydney hotels visitors, Austrialia's famous surfing beaches
will probably be on your list of attractions to visit. Some safety tips
could be useful.
See the Surf safety advice from
The following message is based on the surf safety advice of the surf life saving association.
Visit their excellent website packed with information about sydneys beaches.
If you are not used to swimming or to the surf, entering the water, even
on the shoreline can be extremely dangerous. Deep channels near the shore and
strong currents can quickly occur, taking you by surprise. Unless you are
absolutely confident of your swimming ability, you should keep out of the water.
Even if you are a strong swimmer, and you decide to swim, you can still misjudge
the unfamiliar conditions of the surf.
Most of Sydneys and Austrialias ocean surfing beaches are patrolled by the
lifesavers from the Surf Life Saving Association, an organisation of dedicated
volunteers. When the beach is safe for swimming, you will see two yellow
and red flags on the beach. You should swim only between these flags
because this is the safe swimming area and other parts of the beach may have
dangerous currents that can quickly carry you out into deep water far from the
beach. The lifesavers watch the people in the water between the flags to give help if needed.
When you look towards the surf from the beach, you might see some parts where the waves are not beaking and the surf seems calm. Often these parts are the deep channels where the water brought in to the beach by the breaking waves is flowing back out again.
If you are caught in one of these currents called a "Rip" or Undertow" you might
panic, thinking that the current could carry you away far out to sea.
However, these currents are usually like a narrow river of moving water, flowing
from the beach out to beyond the line of breakers where they turn around and then flow back towards the beach. They are part of the natural circular flow of water around the beach system, where
the breaking waves push water towards the beach, and the "rips" allow the water
to flow back out, usually in deep channels where the waves will not break.
You may see surfboard riders using the "rips" as transport lanes to get quickly out to the breaking waves.
How do you know if you are caught in a rip?
You may suddenly realise that you are opposite a different part of the beach, or you may be moving further away from the beach. To find out if you are being moved along, you can visually line up close and distant objects, and see how your position is changing. This can show you the direction you are moving
If you are caught in a "rip" DO NOT PANIC but stay calm and try and work out which direction the rip water is flowing.
If you suddenly discover that you are being carried along by the water, it is an instinctive reaction to experience panic, and to blindly start swimming towards the beach.
Resisting this panic reaction, and staying calm while trying to understand what is happening with the current, is the only way to stay safe in the water. You may have thoughts that the current will carry you far out into the empty ocean, and this is very frightening, but the rip current cannot do this. The same water flowing out in the rip current will eventually turn around beyond the breakers, and then be swept back to the beach by the breaking waves. Its a circular current.
Recent experiments with rips have demonstrated that floating buoys, when released into the moving water of the rip, will move in a big circle around the beach system and eventually come back to the same place where they were released.
For this reason it is very important not to panic but to stay calm and conserve your strength.
If you can, swim out of the "narrow river" of the rip by swimming to the side of the flow of water in the rip.
If you think of the rip as a flowing river, then on each side of the "flow" there is a "riverbank" of safer water. The idea is to swim across the flow toward the sides of the rip
where the water is not moving along.
ABOVE ALL, DO NOT PANIC! PANIC CAN CAUSE DEATH.
Floating in the rip while it carries you along is much safer than trying to swim against the flow of water, which your instinct will suggest.
If you panic, your instinct will be to swim against the flow
of the water.
You cannot swim to safety this way as you will tire quickly, long before you can
make any progress.
You may have to swim only a fairly short distance across the flow of the rip to get out of fast
moving water. Then you should swim to get away from the rip area, and then swim back to the beach, helped
by the breaking waves.
If you feel that you will need help, again, DO NOT PANIC, but tread water if you can
or float and go with the flow of the water while facing the beach and hold one of your arms in the air and shout to signal to the
lifesavers that you need help. When the lifesavers see that you are asking for help they will quickly come out and rescue
Remember, if there are NO FLAGS, on the beach, there are NO LIFESAVERS to rescue
you if you get into difficulties! ALWAYS SWIM ONLY BETWEEN THE FLAGS. This is
the area the lifesavers are watching. ALSO, NEVER SWIM IF YOU ARE ALONE ON THE BEACH. NEVER SWIM AFTER TAKING DRUGS OR ALCOHOL.