Locals need rip safety lessons says new research

MORE people die drowning in ocean rips than by bushfires, floods, cyclones and sharks combined, according to new research from the University of New South Wales.

The study found that on average, 21 people drown each year in rip currents on Australian surf beaches.

Spearheading the research, rip expert Rob Brander said the Northern Rivers was particularly bad for rip currents, given the amount of unpatrolled, but easily accessible beaches.

"All surf beaches have lots of rips," he said.

"Under normal conditions it's every 100 to 200m."

Dr Brander said more locals were drowning on local beaches, with statistics showing less than 10% of rip current deaths are by international tourists.

"We tend to think it's international tourists, but statistics show it's mostly Australians," he said.

The research found that almost all rip current drownings occur on unpatrolled beaches or outside patrol times with only 4% of Australia's 11,000 beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

Director of the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club, Andrew Dougherty, said many beachgoers were still unaware of how to spot a rip.

New research has shown that the best thing to do if you're caught in a rip is to stay afloat and go with the current, as many tend to re-circulate, bringing the swimmer back to a sandbar or shallow water.

To find out more about rip currents, visit Dr Brander's website at www.scienceofthesurf.com or on the Beachsafe website www.beachsafe.org.au

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