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Beach Safety

Top tips to stay safe


  • Wherever possible, always surf at a lifeguarded beach and follow the advice of the lifeguards.
  • Novices should only ever surf between the black and white flags.
  • Ask a lifeguard for advice on where to surf.
  • Always have a lesson at an approved BSA or ISA school.
  • Always wear your leash.
  • If you get into trouble never abandon your board - it will keep you afloat.
  • Wave your hand and shout for help.
  • Never surf alone, after a heavy meal or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never surf between the red and yellow flags.
  • Never drop in on another surfer, learn Surf Ettiquette.
  • Tell people which beach you are going to and when you expect to reach home.
  • If you are hiring a board, aim to use a member of the Surf Hire Safety scheme.


  • When buying a bodyboard, always purchase a leash and flippers.
  • Buy a good bodyboard (one with a proper leash.. not a cheap supermarket type board).
  • Always use your board on a lifeguarded beach and surf in between the red and yellow flags.
  • If you get into trouble, never abandon your board - it will keep you afloat. Wave your hand and shout for help.
  • If you are hiring a board, aim to use a member of the Surf Hire Safety scheme.

Red and yellow flagRed and yellow flags

Red and yellow flags indicate the area patrolled by lifeguards. These are the safe areas to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables.

Black and white chequered flagsBlack and white chequered flags

Black and white chequered flags indicate an area zoned by lifeguards for use of watercraft such as surfboards and kayaks. Never swim or bodyboard in these areas.

Red flag


Red flag

The red flag indicates danger. NEVER enter the water when the red flag is flying, under any circumstances.

Rip currents (Rips)

Rips are strong currents running out to sea that can easily take swimmers from shallow water out beyond their depth. They are especially powerful in larger surf, but are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.

How to spot a rip current

  • discoloured, brown water (caused by sand being stirred up from the seabed)
  • foam on the water's surface
  • debris floating out to sea
  • a rippled patch of sea, when the water around is generally calm.

How to get out of trouble

If you are caught in a rip or strong current, obey the three Rs:

  • Relax – Stay calm and float. Do not swim against the current, swim across it.
  • Raise – Raise an arm to signal for help. If possible shout to shore for help.
  • Rescue – Float and wait for assistance. Do not panic, people drown in rips because they panic. Obey directions from the lifeguard.

If you think you are able to swim in, swim parallel to the beach until out of the effects of the rip and then make your way to shore.

Tides and waves

  • Keep an eye on tides.
  • Always check the tide before you enter the water.
  • If you are not sure, check with a lifeguard.
  • Spilling waves are the safest to learn to surf in. They appear when the top of the wave tumbles down the front.
  • Dumping waves break with great force in shallow water. These are dangerous waves that usually occur during low tide.
  • Avoid the sea when you see dumping waves.

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