Where should I swim? How do I know if there is a rip? How do I call for help if I need it?

Most Australians learn water safety and how to swim and water safety when the are young.

If you are spending time with locals or using one of Victoria's many picturesque beaches, you see them playing confidently in the water and even jumping into the waves. Before you get into the water at the beach or even at a swimming pool, it's important to know the dangers of water and how to stay safe – even if you can swim.

If you can’t swim don’t worry - you’re not alone.

Swimming is a skill for life!

When you learn to swim it is a skill you have for life. It’s also fun, good exercise and allows you to confidently be in the water and take part in other water fun such as surfing, canoeing, water skiing, sailing etc.

There are swimming lessons/ teachers in all areas so before you get into the water, especially the beach, get some lessons first.

Check out these upcoming beach programs and swimming lessons for beginners, and contact your education provider to see what other swimming programs are in your local area.

Top tips for staying safe in water

  • Never swim alone Regardless of your swimming ability, the water can be a dangerous place. Ensuring you are never alone near the water means that if you are in trouble there is someone to help you or call for help.
  • Always swim between the flags There are many patrolled beaches along Victoria’s coastline that provide a safe swimming environment for you, your family and friends. The qualified lifeguards are informed about water conditions that change from day to day and are trained to act an on any emergency. Swimming between the red and yellow flags indicates the safest place to swim and ensure the lifeguards can see in case you require help.
  • Learn how to identify a rip Although some rips and currents are visibly obvious, they are often not easily spotted. Signs and patterns in the water to help you spot where a rip is and avoid any unexpected danger include:
    • A channel of churning, choppy water
    • Different coloured water beyond the surf zone
    • A break in the incoming wave pattern

What to do if you find yourself in a rip

If you are in a rip, it is extremely important not to panic. Most rips will only pull you out to the point where the waves are breaking. In most Australian beaches that isn’t far from the shore. Don’t swim against the rip, because it will make you tired. Instead, let the rip take you out and then you will have the energy to swim back into the beach once you reach a section of the water that isn’t dangerous.

  • Look for the signs Before heading on to the beach, look out for any safety signs. These signs provide information about current water conditions, things to look out for and warnings for danger in the surf.
  • Calling for help When you find yourself in trouble in the surf there are three key steps to get help from a lifeguard. These include:
    • Take a deep breath and stay calm
    • Raise one arm into the air and roll your hand into a fist. Do not wave. This will alert the lifeguard that you require assistance.
    • Call for help
  • Out of the water The Australian sun can be ruthless, ensure you are also safe out of the water. Stay in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and stay hydrated.

Visit Surf Life Saving Australia’s BeachSafe website for beach safety information in a number of languages.