LIFE Saving Victoria is urging the public to understand the dangers of rip currents, following a rise in coastal drownings and a large number of rescues at Victorian beaches.
And they have chosen the notorious rips along the famous beach at Cape Woolamai to demonstrate the risks that exist for beachgoers at many of the State’s surf beaches.
“One life has already been lost this year in waters at Ocean Grove, when a man was found floating unconscious about 300 metres outside of the red and yellow flags on January 4,” said Life Saving Victoria Operations Manager Greg Scott.
“There were 20 coastal drowning deaths last financial year which was a 32 per cent increase compared to the average for the previous decade.
This season our lifesavers and lifeguards have already performed 229 rescues.
“This week marks the first anniversary of a tragic double drowning at Cape Woolamai, where a group of beach-goers got into trouble in knee-deep water after getting caught in a rip.
“Last week Life Saving Victoria released a dye into a rip at the same beach and filmed it from a helicopter to show just how dangerous rip currents can be.
“This season there has already been 19 rescues at the beach.”
Mr Scott warns rips can occur at all beach locations, including bays.
“Rips are the number one beach hazard for swimmers and each year more people drown in rips than from shark attacks, cyclones and floods combined,” Mr Scott said.
“Three quarters of people can’t identify a rip current and two thirds of people who think they can spot a rip can’t.”
He said some key signs to spot a rip include deeper darker water, fewer breaking waves, sandy coloured water extending beyond the surf zone and debris or seaweed.
“If you are caught in a rip current, try to stay calm and conserve your energy,” Mr Scott said.
“We suggest you attract attention by calling out to seek help and either float with the current or swim parallel to the beach. Reassess the situation – if what you’re doing isn’t working, try another option in your attempt to return to shore.”