WATER WISE: Rhys Balkin, Rod Balkin, Andrew Dougherty and Quinn Dougherty, from the Ballina Lighthouse Lismore Surf Life Saving Club, are urging swimmers to play safe and stay safe this summer.
WATER WISE: Rhys Balkin, Rod Balkin, Andrew Dougherty and Quinn Dougherty, from the Ballina Lighthouse Lismore Surf Life Saving Club, are urging swimmers to play safe and stay safe this summer. Doug Eaton

Play and stay safe in surf over the summer

WITH the hot weather sending holiday-makers to the beach by the dozen, surf lifesavers are reminding swimmers to play safe, stay safe in the surf this summer.

Ballina Surf Club director of training Rod Balkin said it was important for people to remember to swim between the flags.

"Between the flags we haven't lost anyone since surf life saving began in 1907," he said. "Which really enforces the message to swim between the flags.

"If there's no patrol on the beach, it's probably better not to go swimming. You won't have to drive far to find a beach that's got someone looking after the public."

Last year, the Ballina Surf Club was responsible for a third of the rescues between Tweed Heads and Yamba - approximately 50 rescues.

Mr Balkin said a combination of big surf and a lot of rain made last season particularly bad.

However, conditions this year are much better, with relatively flat surf and good weather expected to continue, he said.

"The conditions are really good at the moment because the waves aren't too big and we haven't had too many incidents of blue bottles this year, so it's relatively safe to go in the water," Mr Balkin said.

Recent statistics show the New South Wales coastal drowning toll was 48 for the 2012/13 season - the highest in many years.

Surf Life Saving NSW lifesaving manager Andy Kent said the figures showed how important it was to plan ahead and choose a patrolled beach, during patrolled hours.

"We have over 21,000 highly trained surf lifesavers and lifeguards ... however we need people to make smart decisions for themselves and their families about where and when to swim," he said.

Surf Life Saving has a website, beachsafe.org.au, and a free smartphone app, beachsafe, to help plan a day at the beach.



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