Surf knowledge could save your life, so watch and learn

THE scene was innocent enough: a fairly placid sea on a stunning day.

But a lack of thought by organisers at an event meant the teenage version of myself was stuck with about four kids clinging to me because they didn't feel confident to continue swimming by themselves.

It was lucky a few people including myself happened to have rescue tubes and managed to get the kids to shore.

At the time I thought nothing much of it, apart from perhaps considering the organisers idiots for not coming along with the correct water safety ratio and checking how able the little tykes were at swimming.

After reading the drowning statistics for a story, it made me think back to that fateful day at Tannum beach and, now I'm a little older, I have a few extra words (albeit not fitting for print) to describe those organisers.

There is a lot of talk about pool safety but we rarely hear about ocean drownings and, so far as most are concerned, our beaches are completely safe.

But 22% of drowning deaths occur at beaches, and ocean rips kill more people in Australia on average each year than tropical cyclones, bushfires, floods and shark attacks combined.

A study by Australia's top rip expert Rob Brander, of the University of NSW, found that on average 21 people drowned in rips around Australia each year, compared with eight killed in cyclones and six in bushfires.

Why is the number of surf drownings still so high?

Calls for more lifesavers and lifesaving equipment may be part of the solution, but I believe the problem lies in part with either not enough education or an unhealthy degree of complacency by Australians.

Take the Gladstone region's own death trap - Wild Cattle Creek.

The number of rescues of people caught in an outgoing rip over the past decade is outrageous. People never think that something will happen to them until it does.

And if something happens it's assumed someone will be there to look after them.

As a region we are well looked after - you only need to talk to our lifeguards and lifesavers to see that.

But there's a lot of beach out there to get into trouble on. The red and yellow army can't be everywhere, and it only takes a minute to drown.

Prevention is the best medicine and at the core of prevention lies improved knowledge through education.

If a swimmer doesn't enter a rip in the first place, they won't drown in one.

Take it upon yourself to learn how to spot a rip, learn the dangers at your beach and pass the knowledge on.

Keep the safety conversation going - you never know who it may help one day.

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