With the return of the warm weather, a lot of us are starting to hit the beach – and while we’re certainly remembering what to pack in our beach bag (head here for our favourite beach products) we may need to brush up on our beach safety skills.
And who better to remind us than a Bondi Rescue lifeguard?! You probably recognise Trent ‘Maxi’ Maxwell from his heroic rescue missions on the popular TV show, but what you may not know is that Maxi has gone on to create an incredible beach and fire safety education program – and even a few children’s books!
‘Maxi the Lifeguard: The Stormy Protest’ recently picked up an Environment Children’s Award for Children’s Literature at the Hobart Writer’s Festival, and has proven to be an awesome education tool for when Maxi tours school’s as part of his ‘Live, Learn, Survive’ program.
So what are the top things to remember when you hit the beach this summer? Here’s what Maxi had to say…
Choose the right beach
“The number one rule is to make sure the beach you visit has red and yellow flags and is patrolled by lifeguards,” says Maxi. “You never know when conditions can change or an incident will happen, and it’s the lifeguards who help make your time at the beach safe.” When you first arrive at the beach, look out for information signs and actually take the time to stop and read them – they’ll tell you everything you need to know, from where the flags might be to what hazards are present, as well as things that are prohibited and the emergency numbers to call if something goes wrong. Use the sign to decide whether the conditions are right for you and your family.
Read the water
There is a chance that the dangers present at the beach won’t be written on the sign, so you’ll have to do your own looking out. “If you know how to read the water and see rips along the beach, and notice there are no red and yellow flags or lifeguards present, it may not be a safe place to swim,” says Maxi. “If there is a large swell, it could mean that rips are stronger, too.” Check the weather and the wave conditions and remember that each beach can be different – there may be a beach nearby that’s more protected.
Watch your children
Supervising your children is so important, regardless of how old they are. From regularly applying sunscreen, drinking plenty of water and keeping their energy up with healthy food, to physically swimming with your kids, Maxi says there are a number of ways that parents can – and should – take responsibility for their children’s safety. And, of course, make sure they always swim between the flags.
Age is just a number
When deciding whether your children are safe to swim on their own – or even visit the beach with friends – it’s more about their skill level and responsibility than their age. “Children aged twelve and up may be able to swim at the beach on their own, but it’s always safer to swim with someone else – whether you are an adult or a child,” says Maxi. “If your child is around 14-15 and visiting the beach with friends or a friend’s family, make sure they know the risks and hazards associated with visiting the beach without adult supervision.” Maxi says that a good way for kids to learn is to get them involved in a surf club, or join nippers, so that they learn water safety and beach safety from an early age.
It’s not just about how you act on the beach, but what you bring, too. Water, sunscreen, food, an umbrella for shade, floatation devices if your children can’t swim and personal sun protection – like a hat, sunglasses and rashie – are just some of the essentials Maxi recommends.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is to swim between the flags, always look out for the dangerous current and reach the beach signs,” Maxi says. “Lifeguards assess the beach constantly and put the signs out for a reason – to keep you safe. Always know your surroundings if you’re not confident, save the beach for another day.”