Surf death prompts beach safety warning

Mojo Surf proprietor Nat Folkes, pictured at Lennox Head.
Mojo Surf proprietor Nat Folkes, pictured at Lennox Head. Patrick Gorbunovs

FOLLOWING the death of a 64-year-old Lennox Head man while surfing at Ballina's Shelly Beach on Christmas morning, the importance of surf safety is being amplified around the region.

While the beach wasn't being patrolled, there was nothing to indicate that the man wasn't following other safety tips - he was with others and conditions were not rough.

Surf Life Saving NSW said the public needs to be aware of surf safety and that while the man had taken these safety precautions, their preference is for people to be at a patrolled beach in patrolled hours.

Nat Folkes, owner of Mojo Surf, said that knowing about safety in the water is extremely important.

"Education around surf safety is important, but it needs to be practical education, not just theory," Mr Folkes said.

It's a different world out there in the ocean, he said.

"If people aren't familiar with the beach it's important that they swim at a patrolled beach between the flags, or take a surf lesson."

"If you can't swim out there, you shouldn't be surfing out there."

Byron Bay surfer Kieren Perrow has surfed some of the biggest and most dangerous waves around the world and last year took out the title at Billabong Pipe Masters in Hawaii. He knows just how important surf safety is.

He said that before you even go in the water there are certain steps that must be taken.

He said that if you're not confident as a swimmer or you don't know the ocean, the safest thing is to not go out too deep.

If you do get into trouble, the worst thing to do is panic, he said.

"Panicking can cause a problem, your breath can get laboured, and then you find it difficult to stay above water."

"Trying to fight it would be the worst thing - you use so much energy."

"Don't try and fight it; go with it. You might be a bit uncomfortable with that, because it's going to take you out further, but once you get out of it, there's usually a place when you can get back. The waves will naturally wash you in."

Topics:  drowning surfing surf life saving

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