Courtesy of 

The first rule of beach safety is: Always swim between the flags.

These are the horizontally striped red and yellow flags which you will find on patrolled Australian beaches. They indicate not only which stretch of water is safe to swim in but also an area where surf lifesavers keep a watchful eye on those in the water.

Some dangers you may face outside these "flagged" areas are submerged rocks, rips and currents.

Surf life saving Australia. -


  • F - ind the flags and swim between them. The flags represent the area patrolled by lifesavers and lifeguards. They mark the safest place to swim at the beach. The flags are red and yellow.
  • L - ook at the safety signs. The safety signs help you identify potential dangers and daily conditions at the beach. They are located at beach access points and at the flagged areas. Please read them carefully before entering the water.
  • A - sk a lifeguard for any advice. Surf conditions can change quickly (water depth, currents, wave size, and type). Talk to a lifesaver or lifeguard before entering the water.
  • G - et a friend to swim with you. Always swim with a friend so you can look after each other's safety and get help if needed. Children should always be supervised by an adult.
  • S- tick your hand up for help. If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm and don't panic. Raise your arm to signal for help, float and wait for assistance. Float with a current or rip. Don't try and swim against it.



  • Never swim at unpatrolled beaches.
  • Never swim at dusk or at night.
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never swim directly after a meal.


Red and Yellow Flags -  it is safe to swim between the flags, and its the safest spot to swim.

Yellow Flags -  the surf is potentially dangerous with bad conditions.

Red Flags -  DANGER! - DO NOT SWIM IN THE WATER - when the red flag is up the beach is closed.



Rip currents are identified by the following;

  • Discoloured brown water caused by sand stirred up from the bottom.
  • Foam on the surface extending beyond the break.
  •  A rippled appearance, with waves breaking on both sides of the rip, but not inside the rip.


  • Don't panic, tread water or float and let the current flow.
  • Raise one arm to signal for help and assistance.
  • Never try and swim against a rip. Float out with the current and when past the breakers, swim across the rip, parallel to shore. When out of the rip, swim back to shore.



  • Slip on a shirt.
  • Slop on sunscreen.
  • Slap on a hat.
  • Wrap on some sunglasses.



  • Before entering the surf, always make note of a landmark such as a building or headland that can be seen from the water and used as a guide for maintaining a fixed position. Also check the depth of any gutter and the height of any sandbank before diving under waves – this will help prevent spinal injury.
  • When going out through the surf, negotiate the shallows by a high hurdle type of stride until the breakers reach your waist or until your progress is slowed.
  • Waves of any size and force should not be fought against and should be negotiated by diving underneath, giving  time to reach the bottom and lie as flat as possible on the sand while the wave passes over.
  • Your hands can be dug into the sand in front at arm's length for stability and as a pull forward when ready to surface.
  • If the water is deep enough, bring your knees up under your body so you can get a good push off the bottom, like an uncoiling spring. This gives added force to your next dive. Repeat this process until in chest-deep water, then start swimming.
  • If a broken wave approaches when the water is not too deep, dive down and run or crawl along the bottom. In deep water, do not use extra energy trying to reach the bottom; instead duck dive to just below the turbulence. Wait for the wash to pass and then push or kick to the surface (off the bottom, if possible).
  • Stick to your predetermined path on the swim out.
  • Check your position by occasionally raising your head for a quick look when swimming on top of a swell.



Body Surfing:
  • Body surfing is riding waves without any equipment. The skill to know how to catch the wave at the right time, using its energy for propulsion. The skills required to become a good body surfer come from just one thing: Practice.
  • Spilling waves are best for body surfing. When catching a plunging wave you can avoid injury by somersaulting out before it breaks.
  • As the wave is almost there, push off the bottom or start swimming toward shore until you feel the wave begin to lift and carry.
  • As the wave breaks, take a breath, put your head down and kick hard until your body breaks through. Your feet should be together, your back arched slightly and your arms extended in front . Keep your eyes up and open if possible to avoid collisions. This is especially important on crowded beaches.
  • As the wave becomes steeper, tilt forward and surf along the wave's face. You will probably have to paddle a bit to hold your position on the wave. Try to keep your body straight.
  • As you approach the beach, pull out of the wave by turning your body away from the wave's breaking force, or jackknife dive and let the wave pass over your body.


The surf lifesaver has become an Australian icon


 "In the 1920s, the surf lifesaver replaced the bushman and the digger as the typical Australian. Like his predecessors, the surf lifesaver was masculine, tanned, fit, strong and selfless. Bound by mateship and subjected to but not tamed by military discipline.  also modern and urban, a reflection of the nation, or the nation as it wanted to be.

Surf lifesavers have featured in advertisements for a range of products. They have promoted tourism and migration and have become as identifiably Australian as kangaroos and the Sydney Harbour Bridge .

Surf lifesavers have saved thousands of lives. They volunteer their time, marking the safest places to swim with red and yellow flags and giving people the confidence to enjoy the surf.

Surf lifesavers are not all bronzed and beautiful. They are men and women, young and old. They are passionate about their beach and their community. They are competitive and committed. They are part of a great tradition that echoes across the past 100 years, from Darwin to Devonport and Bondi to Bunbury. Surf lifesavers are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, voluntarily." from

What is a lifeguard?

A lifeguard is a person who provides beach safety to local government or other land managers (such as resort or amusement park operators). Unlike volunteer surf lifesavers, who patrol on weekends and public holidays during the swimming season, a lifeguard usually patrols seven days a week – although this depends on location.

How do  tell the difference between a lifeguard and surf lifesaver?

Most lifeguards now wear the internationally recognised red and yellow uniforms, although a number of local government areas have not yet adopted these international guidelines. Lifeguards can be identified by the word ‘Lifeguard’ on their uniforms and rescue gear, and they do not wear the red and yellow caps of  trained volunteer surf lifesavers.





SLSA’s current recommended treatment for bluebottle stings is consistent with current ARC guidelines, that is:

  • Remove any tentacles with fingers
  • Wash sting area with saltwater to remove any stinger cells still on the skin and not visible to the naked eye
  • Place ice on the area for a maximum of 20 minutes to assist in reducing pain


  •  Remove the tentacles with fingers usually without any further pain to the hand due to the thicker skin found on the fingers
  • Stinger cells too small to be seen with the eye can still remain on the skin after the tentacles have been removed
  • Wash the area with saltwater to remove these cells as much as possible, as freshwater can actually make the stinging cells release more toxin.


    Marine Stingers (Box Jellyfish and Irukandji):

    Are found in North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and North Western Australia coastal waters.

    Stinger season is in force October to May

    Do not swim in unprotected waters without proper stinger resistant suits 


    Stinger warning sign - DO NOT SWIM!     

  • Marine Stinger Treatment:

    In particular, hot water should not be used for box jellyfish or Irukandji stings.

    • Irukandji – If in doubt of what stinger was involved, apply vinegar immediately to the sting. Observe airway, breathing and circulation. Make sure the patient rests and send for urgent medical assistance. Note that the symptoms of an Irukandji sting can take around 5-120 minutes to develop.   The Irukandji (Carukua barnesi) inhabits Northern Australian waters. This is a deadly jellyfish, which is only 2.5 centimetres in diameter, which makes it very hard to spot in the water.

    This is a species of jellyfish which has become known about in recent years, due to deaths of swimmers in Australia .

  • Box jellyfish – Flood the area with vinegar for a minimum of 30 seconds. Send for urgent medical attention and monitor the person’s airway, breathing and circulation and be ready to apply CPR if necessary.

  • Comprehensive First Aid Instructions:

    1. Retrieve the victim from the water and restrain them, if necessary.

    2. If others are available, immediately send them for ambulance / medical help (emphasise the sting is from a Box jellyfish as the Ambulance may have antivenom available).

    3. Check the victims Airway, breathing and circulation (ABC). Treat with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (EAR), or heart massage (CPR), if necessary.

    4. If others are available, or if resuscitation is not needed, pour vinegar over the stung area for a minimum of 30 seconds to inactivate remaining stinging cells on any adherent tentacles left on the skin.


    5. AFTER vinegar application, apply compression bandages directly over major stings, ie. those:
    a) covering an area more than half of one limb
    b) causing impairment of consciousness
    c) causing impairment of breathing
    d) causing impairment of circulation
    If vinegar is unavailable, the rescuer should pull tentacles off using their fingers (only a faint, harmless prickling will be felt) - before applying the compression bandages. REMEMBER to wash your hands after this as sting cells will remain on your fingers until they are carefully washed off!

    6. If available, use CSL Chironex antivenom for all major cases. Three ampoules each containing 20000 units may be given intramuscularly, above the bandages, by a trained health professional on the beach. One ampoule intravenously may be given by medical personnel.

    7. Cold packs may be used (15 minutes and repeated when necessary) to help ease the skin pain in conscious victims.

    8. In severe envenomation, use oxygen if available; Inhaled analgesia (ie entonox or penthrane) can be administered for unremitting pain in conscious, breathing, cooperative patients; its use should be discontinued if the patient's condition worsens.

    (source -



    Crocodile Warnings – courtesy of the Department of Conservation and Land Management.

    Found in ONLY in North Queensland, Northern Territory and North Western Australia.

    • Observe warning signs
    • Seek expert advice about crocodiles before swimming, camping, fishing or boating – there is potential danger anywhere in the saltwater crocodile range. If in doubt, do not swim, canoe or use small boats in estuaries, tidal rivers, deep pools or mangrove shores. Saltwater crocodiles may also inhabit freshwater pools and billabongs a great distance upstream.
    • Large saltwater crocodiles have no fear of humans - they are often inquisitive and will swim towards boats. Leave the area immediately if you see one.
    • Be aware – keep your eyes open for crocodiles. Children and pets are at particular risk in the water or at the water’s edge.
    • Do not paddle, clean fish, prepare food or camp at the water’s edge. Fill a bucket with water and do your chores at least 50 metres away.
    • Returning daily or regularly to the same spot at the water’s edge is dangerous.
    • Stand a few metres back from the water’s edge when fishing.
    • Do not lean over the edge of a boat or stand on logs overhanging water, and do not hang articles over the edge of boats – this includes arms or legs!
    • Dispose of food scraps, fish offal and other waste properly and away from your campsite.
    • Do not feed crocodiles!
    • Saltwater crocodiles mostly remain near the water’s edge and may be attracted to a struggling fish, or a person splashing in the water. Fish and fishing lures are replaceable, human life is not.


    Salt water crocodile.   


    Warning sign.       


    Don't risk your life!



    Courtesy of

    Shark attacks occur rarely. Only a few of the 450 or so shark species have been known to attack people. Unfortunately, some attacks are fatal.

    There are some easy and common sense precautions to take that can help reduce the risk of a shark attack. This risk minimisation advice is reproduced from the Australian Shark Attack File.

    • Do not swim, dive or surf where dangerous sharks are known to congregate.
    • Always swim, dive or surf with other people.
    • Do not swim in dirty or turbid water.
    • Avoid swimming well offshore, near deep channels, at river mouths or along drop-offs to deeper water.
    • If schooling fish start to behave erratically or congregate in large numbers, leave the water.
    • Do not swim with pets and domestic animals.
    • Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or wharf.
    • If possible do not swim a dusk or at night.
    • Do not swim near people fishing or spear fishing.
    • If a shark is sighted in the area leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible.

    For more information on shark attacks, risk minimisation, statistics and maps, please see: