North Coast lifeguards undertaking training drills in preparation for the summer months, which attracts greater numbers to our beaches.
North Coast lifeguards undertaking training drills in preparation for the summer months, which attracts greater numbers to our beaches. Northern Star

Australians clueless about rips

LIFEGUARDS on the North Coast spend a lot of time rescuing people who have been caught in rips.

But very few Australians actually know how to spot a rip, or how to get out of one.

A Newspoll survey has found that 96 per cent of people can’t identify a rip current, and only 15 per cent know the best way to save themselves if caught in a rip.

These are some worrying statistics for local lifeguards.

Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator, Scott McCartney, said rips could be ‘near impossible’ to see.

But he said that was why people needed to know how to get out of one.

“Rips can be quite hard to identify. It’s easy enough if it’s a good day, but as soon as there is a bit of wind or debris in the water, it becomes really difficult,” he said.

“A lot of people like to swim in calmer spots where there are no waves, but often that’s in a gutter and there are rips.

“We do need to provide more information to people on the identification of rips.”

Mr McCartney said rips caused the most trouble for lifeguards.

“A lot of our rescues are inexperienced swimmers who have been caught in a rip,” he said.

“People panic and they see themselves drifting away from the shore.

“Their first instinct is to try and swim straight in, but that’s probably the worse thing to do. You will tire easily and then you’ll be in real trouble.”

Mr McCartney suggested that people swim across the rip, parallel to the shore, or swim out to sea at a diagonal angle.

“If you’re not sure, or you’re not a strong swimmer, put your hand up and signal for help,” he said.

“Then go with the rip. Rips usually only go out past the wave break and then die off.”



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