EDITORIAL: Enjoy our beaches, but be aware of risks

Three drownings in the space of a week along with serious concerns over the welfare of a fourth person has prompted Surf Life Saving NSW to issue a safety plea ahead of what is expected to be a busy Christmas/New Year period.

Since last Wednesday, three people have drowned in separate incidents in Suffolk Park, Port Macquarie and an unpatrolled beach near Coffs Harbour. Meanwhile, the search continues for a woman at Tuross missing since last Wednesday night.

With the three deaths, the NSW drowning toll now stands at 16, compared to 12 recorded in the same period last year.

It brings home to inherent dangers at our beaches, where more and more people are likely to head as temperatures continue to rise and families begin their summer holidays. The only thing certain about the ocean is that it is unpredictable. The relentless power of water and ocean swell means conditions both in the breakers and underwater is always in flux.

While visiting holidaymakers need to pay particular attention to the conditions at unfamiliar locations, but locals should pay heed to them just as carefully.

Everyone who uses our beaches and coastline – whether for pleasure of business – needs to understand it comes with a risk.

Knowing the risks, and taking reasonable steps to alleviate them, should be priority number one for all water users.

This week sees paid lifeguards begin weekday patrols at several Sapphire Coast beaches. The work of the Australian Lifeguard Service is in addition to weekend and public holiday patrols by our fantastic surf club volunteers.

These men and women willingly put their own lives at risk to come to the aid of others who find themselves in trouble. 

Not only do they deserve our great respect, they also deserve us taking some responsibility for ourselves.

Swim at patrolled locations, learn how to spot a rip and what to do when caught in one – if you don’t know, ask the lifeguards, they are there to help keep you safe.

Wear a lifejacket when out on your boat/canoe/kayak, consider wearing one when rock fishing as well.

Don’t mix alcohol with swimming or boating activities. And take care of yourself with plenty of sun protection.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year – and make sure it’s a safe one so you can enjoy many more.