Not surfing, drowning

Swellnet Dispatch

Earlier this year, Surf Life Saving Australia released the Coastal Safety Brief: Surfing and Watercraft, a document that distills all the SLSA statistics - think number of rescues, fatalities, times, ages etc etc - plus responses to surveys into one data-heavy 20-page booklet.

With a penchant for numbers and facts, blindboy was the right guy to pull the document apart for us. What do all those statistics mean for surfers?

Since 2003, according to available statistics, six surfers have been fatally attacked by sharks in Australia. These deaths, combined with eight others in different coastal activities, caused widespread discussion resulting in policy changes, new technology, and the introduction of a variety of products, some more effective than others, to reduce the risk. Over the same time period 53 surfers drowned, yet this has provoked very little discussion and practically no response.

Human nature being what it is, this doesn't require much explanation. We make our decisions based on emotions and construct 'rational' arguments to support them later. Fatal shark attacks are more newsworthy than drowning deaths and provoke stronger emotional reactions. Add to that our notorious inability to accurately assess risk and our fears, with the energetic responses that accompany them, naturally focus on the shark attacks.

Perhaps none of this would matter much if drowning deaths were as random and unpredictable as shark attacks, but they are not. The data from Surf Life Saving Australia suggests that a significant percentage of drowning deaths could be avoided. It sends a clear message that surfers would do well to think more deeply about the issue and consider making the changes necessary to reduce their risk.

Consider the most startling of the statistics they present. According to their surveys, 20% of surfers self-report as unable to swim in the surf or as weak swimmers, and that figure has been consistent from year to year. There might be a tendency to dismiss this as being a problem related only to beginners but given the numbers it is likely to be more widespread than that.

Less surprising, but equally disturbing, is that 54% of surfers report occasionally surfing under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The available statistics do not distinguish between surfers and paddlers (surf skis and sea kayaks) but with 19% of drowning deaths being attributable to alcohol or drug use it is a reasonable assumption that surfers accounted for an even share of that number. The historical culture of surfing has a lot to answer for here. From the pot smoking in Morning Of The Earth, to Michael Peterson's reputation for winning events while on LSD and on to the cocaine-fuelled exploits of later generations, significant parts of surfing culture have not merely been tolerant of drugs, they have actively embraced them.   

Age is also a factor but the evidence suggests a pattern that might not have been expected. It indicates a decreased risk between the ages of 40 and 54 with younger and older surfers having a significantly higher risk. In the case of older surfers heart disease has been a significant factor in many drowning deaths. It may also have been under-reported as a risk since if a person died directly from a heart attack while surfing, rather than from drowning, it would not have been recorded.

Surfing has a couple of risks in terms of this that do not exist in most other forms of exercise. The first and most important is that the work rate cannot always be controlled. A surfer who has been working close to their maximum during a difficult paddle out may arrive to find the set of the day looming with the additional unavoidable effort that would require. Over-exertion is a known trigger for heart attacks. The second risk is cold which raises blood pressure for a short period. A surfer with an underlying heart condition, who jumps into cold water and immediately makes a major effort is greatly increasing their risk.

Older surfers in particular should be aware of these risks and take steps to minimise them. A regular medical check up, with referral for a cardiac stress test if there are grounds for concern, is a good way to assess that risk. It is also important to keep the work rate low so that there is always a reserve available if needed. This involves paddling out slowly and making sure your heart rate has recovered between waves. It is also worth noting, for those who feel their activity level excludes a need for concern, that competitors in Masters events across a range of sports have a higher incidence of cardio-vascular disease than the general population.

Another concern is that the survey data shows 66% of surfers sometimes surf in conditions beyond their skill level. The observations of many experienced surfers would probably support this. The problem here relates to the decision making process and in some ways is understandable since there is no clear guidance available about how to assess the risk. Surfers are also notoriously reluctant to take guidance when offered, even when it comes from experienced lifeguards.   

One aspect of the risk assessment that tends to be over looked is that the risk is not evenly spread and is cumulative from year to year. It is not hard to determine from the data that the overall risk for an individual in any one year is very small but a closer look indicates that “frequent” surfers include those who surf as little as once a month. If, as is fair to assume on Swellnet, you surf much more frequently than that, your share of the risk increases proportionally. Perhaps of more concern is the lifetime risk. Many surfers will participate for fifty years or more so their total risk is the annual risk multiplied by how ever many years they surf. If you do this calculation the figures become much less reassuring!

There are no easy solutions to these issues. Surf Life Saving Australia finds it very difficult to get its message across as most surfers are not members of surf life saving clubs. Surfing Australia are currently offering rescue and resuscitation courses for surfers through local boardriding clubs to run next year but are obviously much more focused on competitive surfing. The issue then falls in between the two groups. Surf Life Saving Australia has the resources and the will to address the issue. Surfing Australia has the specific expertise and contacts within the surfing community to communicate effectively with them. They need to work together in a longer term, more substantial manner to reduce the incidence of drownings.

// blindboy


Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 3:45pm

This is a pretty graphic reason why the belief that hard data in the form of statistics is superior to anecdotal evidence is a mistake.

Firstly , just what constitutes a surfer in these statistics ? A kid on a boogie board , a back packer on their first ever go out in the waves ? My definition of a surfer is a lot more refined than that. It’s someone that has achieved competence in the water for a start.

20 percent of surfers are poor swimmers !?!? Where have they been surfing ? Again it comes down to definition of a surfer. I couldn’t think of a single surfer that can’t swim well and I’ve met thousands of them....and a lot of them surf stoned.

What of the statement that surfer’s are notoriously bad at assessing risk ? Where does that come from ? Can you name a ( true ) surfer that isn’t aware of the limits of their abilities ? Stoned or otherwise ?

As for comparing shark attacks vs drownings - I don’t know any surfers that have drowned but I know a few that have been attacked by sharks.

Not sure why you’re surprised by the more experienced surfers drowning less up to the point whereby it’s actually heart attacks killing people in the water as opposed to drowning through inability to survive in the ocean.

The statement that the risk of drowning is cumulative is also incorrect. More water time means more fitness and more experience in the way the ocean behaves. More water time means less chance of drowning if anything.

How many surfers that you know have drowned due to being overwhelmed by the ocean BB ? Not including through heart attack or after sustaining an injury in the surf .

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Geof commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 11:40pm

I'm going to agree by disagreeing; I think the storey is off the mark because of the statistics rather than just common sense. Looking at the report there were 8 watersports deaths in 2017/18 in Australia of which 51% were surfing of which half were related to medical issues..... so Just 2 were healthy competent surfers who drowned ( if they weren't one of the 33% who identified as beginners or the 22% who are functional non-swimmers) pretty amazing considering high impact surf, pointy sharp equipment, reefs and rocks and rips.
Total drownings for the year was 110 mostly swimming, boating and rock fishing so surfing would seem to be relatively safe ( even accounting for the larger numbers of swimmers and boaters) certainly a lot better than the 1300 approx road deaths. Bad news for the 2 per annum Australia wide but trivial compared to other causes of death like suicide and rectal cancer but this won't stop SLSA chasing government funding to fix this 'issue'.
The report also says about 25% of surfers have participated in a rescue and given they estimate there are 1.8 million surfers in Australia ( including the 33% who identify as beginners and the 22% who are functionally non-swimmers) then surfers perform more rescues than lifesavers (something most surfers already know)..... maybe we should be chasing the funding and get to hoon around on jet skis and IRBs when it goes onshore.
I agree that more time in the water ( experience, fitness and skill) decreases total risk rather than increasing it. Even decreased cardiovascular health is compensated by surf knowledge to understand one's limits but when I go I'd rather it's at the end of a great wave than in a nursing home bed.
Overall the health benefits of surfing significantly outweigh the risks, reports like this are trying to inflate statistically minor issues

BenSchemel's picture
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BenSchemel commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 6:50am

Take away the legrope then let's see how many surfers can swim. Drop the crowd by more than half I reckon

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Badbob commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 12:08pm

Shit I'm trouble. I'm 65 and always been a crap swimmer, never mastered duck diving and get asthma when having to paddle really hard, a legacy from working in a refinery. Been surfing regularly for over 50 years in all sizes and relied on getting washed in with the white water past if I lost my board. Size didn't matter as long I could stay afloat with the aid of my wetty. Never been rescued myself but have rescued others in my younger days,like most other surfers have. If you surf regularly I reckon you will be ok. A high level of fitness comes with regular surfing and that with expertise should keep you safe. Having said that I've come close to drowning twice in recent years in crappy beach breaks where there were lots of holes and gutters. Saw the flags in the distance,but at the time I thought fuck it,would rather drown than get rescued by a clubby, a
legacy from the old days.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 12:20pm

Stay safe out there Badbob. 50 years in the water and a poor swimmer . You ever thought of taking swimming lessons ?

Maybe let the lifeguards know you’re in trouble next time . If I had to choose between death or a potential French kiss of life from a budgy smuggling Tony Abbott I do believe I’d give Tony the green light. Bastard would probably go the Hopoate digital insertion whilst he’s got you in the recovery position though.

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kcorbz commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 10:12pm

hahahahahhaha. yeah this report is kinda whack. i never even thought about that, never even seen someone who wasn't proficient in the water. i come from a family of strong swimmers and ocean people so i grew up in the water. i think people definitely need to be familiar with the ocean and atleast boog before they start surfing. much less of a challenge without a big fiberglass spear waiting to axe you in the head if you aren't aware of how the ocean is going to behave. people should definitely try swimming and bodysurfing before actually surfing!!!

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pavlo commented Wednesday, 9 Jan 2019 at 2:52pm

20 per cent that are poor swimmers? It's probably accurate. 5 years into surfing I used to be a poor swimmer but a good paddler. Paddling a board and good swimming form (esp breathing) are worlds apart. One big day i realized if I lost my board I'd be in deep doodoo. So I went to adult swimming lessons. Also started swimming in from surf breaks to give me confidence in the water. I tried to stick to a self imposed rule before paddling out: if I lose my board am I confident I can swim in?

The other thing to consider is that it doesn't need to be huge surf to be dangerous. Some breaks are notoriously rippy, lose your board, you need to know how to get in.

I once rescued two Japanese tourists on boogie boards in Hawaii, caught in the channel rip between Kammies and Sunset on a 6+ day. To add to the dilemma, the woman looked to be 6 months pregnant and they both looked like complete beginners! Before they knew what had happened the rip had taken them blissfully unaware out from the little shorebreak where they were playing around, right to the Kammies impact zone. They got hit by a sizeable set. Lost their boards, panicked, they could not get in without help. I put the woman on the front of my board while the husband panicked and tried to grab onto me. I had to keep him away to keep myself safe (as I was taught in SLS). Another decent size set came and I had to push the woman off the front of my board to keep us both safe. Eventually got them both in. They should not have been out there. It was scary stuff. When I got out the lifeguards in the tower said they'd seen the same couple in trouble the day before! Go figure.


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blindboy commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:14pm

I think there are some fair points in there Blowin so I will try to respond to them individually. As far as the definition of a surfer goes it was boardriders only. I did not include the data on body boards for the reason you gave. FYI 17 body boarders drowned over the same period. Your definition of a surfer is fine for your purposes but the reality is that there are a lot of marginally competent people in the water in some areas. They are still surfers and there is no data on the experience or skill level of the victims so I think the wisest attitude is to consider that it represents a cross section. To my knowledge several well known surfers have drowned including Mark Foo and Frank Latta. bAs far as the swimming goes I knew a surfer who was competing at State Title Level who could not swim, at all! So they are out there sometimes where you least expect it. A couple of years ago on a 3-4ft inconsistent day at my local I saw a bloke who had been surfing pretty well lose his board and immediately wave for the lifeguard to pick him up with the jet ski. I also wonder at how a lot of surfers in 4/3 wetsuits would go faced with a challenging swim.

Can I name some surfers who are not aware of their limits? Well to quote Michael Petersen, I could say but I won't. There was one notorious local surfer who insisted on paddling out on crazy stormy days who ended up being rescued at least twice by the helicopter. Last week there was a surfer trying to paddle out in a 6ft stormy swell who just got swept down the beach and washed in, I see that quite often and that is clearly over estimating your ability.

Drugs and surfing are not a great combination. All of the people might be safe some of the time and some of the people might be safe all of the time but not all,of the people are safe all of the time, so maybe give it a miss, if not for your own safety (we all believe we are indestructible ..... It's a bloke thing), then to set a good example to the less competent. Alcohol and surfing are lethal. Lots of data on alcohol and drownings if you look it up.

Your personal contact with surfers who have been attacked is just anecdote and the data shows that it is not representative. Your point about the risk not being cumulative is wrong. The risk may increase or decrease over time but they all contribute to the total risk.

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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:35pm

The wisest attitude is to consider that it represents a cross section ?

I don’t know a single surfer that has drowned after several decades of being around surfers.

Except for Mark Foo and co who insist on riding waves so intense that I can’t comprehend how they don’t all die. So if we take humongous wave riding out of the equation and also remove the beginners and non swimmers that shouldn’t even be out there then we are left with a much more commonsensical mean with which to discuss the statistics of surfers drowning.

And how many is that ?

Fuck all.

Lies , damned lies and be interpreted as your needs dictate.

BB - You’ve surfed a loooong time. I know you know a lot of surfers. How many surfers do you know that have drowned ? Talk about poor risk assessment. Drowning isn’t much of a risk for healthy , experienced surfers of the type this article is intended to reach.

PS Didn’t Frank Latta - RIP- pass in the water after a heart attack in small surf at Valla ? I wouldn’t class that as a case of poor risk assessment which is the crux of the article.

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goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:41pm

" I also wonder at how a lot of surfers in 4/3 wetsuits would go faced with a challenging swim."

I feel more confident in being able to swim for long distances wearing a wetsuit because of the flotation they provide.
I've had a few long swims in battling pretty strong rips and cross shore currents and I like how you can just pretty much lay back and float if you need a rest when you're wearing a wetsuit.
Wearing boardies I think you need to work a bit harder to stay afloat.

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goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:41pm

Different for everyone though

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jimbrown commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:47pm

I had never entertained the thought of a surfer who couldn't swim until last summer/autumn. Was out at solid 4 - 5 ft + Tama, a notoriously rippy joint. A fellow in his mid to late 30s started calling out to me after a set passed and things had quietened down. He was bobbing around, evidently having lost his board. I was in no rush to get to him: he wasn't floundering, splashing or disappearing below the surface. His calls increased in urgency and as I approached, he made a sudden effort to hold onto my board.

"What's up mate?"
"I lost my board and I can barely swim".

Jesus, the fuck are you doing out Tama on a solid swell?

"This happened at Cloudbreak too"

His mate quickly arrived and assisted him in but I was gobsmacked at the ABILITY of some people to get them into the proximate area of heavy situations, and INability to get themselves out.

This survey suggests it is far more common than that one guy at Tama.

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MGX commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 6:11pm

well yeah because there was a guy who drowned (surfing) at Bronte - or maybe Tama, I can't remember - I think he went out at Bronte and ended up further North about 2 years ago? maybe longer

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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:49pm

This happened at Cloudbreak too !!!!!!!

Fuck , apologies BB.

There are dumb cunts amongst us.

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blindboy commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:52pm

Not sure why it bothers you so much Blowin. We can only interpret the limited data available. It would help if there was more but there isn't. What there is suggests that a significant number of surfers need to improve their swimming. Others, according to their own judgement take risks with the conditions and quite a few surf, from time to time after indulging in their recreational drug of choice. All these factors, plus poor monitoring of heart health, have contributed to avoidable deaths by drowning. If you think that is all OK, I don't. These deaths impact lots of people beyond the actual victim. Rescuers, family, friends and bystanders can all be traumatised by the event. Me? I am for taking the issue seriously. If you are happy with your own safety and think there is nothing to learn, maybe spare a thought for those you might leave behind.

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channel-bottom commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 4:58pm

Saved a kid at Manly last year, reasonable east swell coupled with low tide meant the clubbies had dropped the flags and closed the beach to swimmers.
I was trying to snag a couple of right handers in the southern corner when I noticed a clubbie kid swimming against the rip next to the rocks. I asked a couple of times if they were OK which they said they were. I asked a 3rd time and she burst into tears and admitted she had lost her paddleboard after getting dumped and couldn't swim well enough to get in. I held her on my board, signalled the clubbies (who weren't watching) and eventually they came out. Simultaneously, a council lifeguard also arrived and took charge to get the kid in.

When I was learning to surf, my dad wouldn't let me go out by myself until I could swim 1km non-stop in the pool.

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velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:56pm

When young grasshopper could catch a fish with his bare hands, I knew he was ready :)

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channel-bottom commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 9:15pm

When young grasshopper threw his plastic fins in the bin, he was really ready :) :) :)

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velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 7:48am

This is a sign that portends greatness on the flat boards that ride down mountains.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 5:03pm

I’m all for people living rather than drowning.

It’s the misinterpretation of data that concerns me , irrespective of the field.

Swellnet is a wide net of surfing experience. If anyone knows of anyone who was a competent surfer and who drowned surfing then please let me know. Until then it’s just a misreading of a ledger that accounts for numbers of naive tourists or unsupervised children who wandered into the ocean with a surfboard shaped object under their arms and not a true measure of the propensity of surfers to drown.

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Bnkref commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 5:12pm

A few come to mind that I've read about on here (not that I know them). The Australian guy at big Ulus earlier this year, a very experienced SUP'er recently on the Yorke Peninsula, a couple last year in Indo on big swells (Scar Reef and on Lembongan from memory).

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blindboy commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 5:27pm

Good point. The data is for Australia only. There is no reliable recording of overseas deaths and there have definitely been quite a few over the same period.

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redmondo commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 5:31pm

It is far too risky and it is best if you all stay out of the water. Consuming dianmite like Larry Blair is risky too you only need a tiny pinch. Having to swim in a steamer is a work out

Red Clement

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jezza64 commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 5:24pm

The number of "surfers" I see paddling out at Bells who clearly cannot even paddle a board properly is frightening. I sat watching one "surfer" paddle out, about 3-4 ft, and was chatting to a couple as he managed to fluke it through the shorey and head out to the Bowl. They were video-ing what was happening so they could provide proof to the coroner, we were all convinced it wasn't going to end well.

After he scraped over a set wave, by frog kicking his legs and not paddling at all, I can only assume someone more experienced had a quiet word with him and he managed to catch a foamy in. A statistic waiting to happen.

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snakeman commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 6:09pm

A golden rule:
Check conditions, if you doubt you can return to shore without your board etc. Don't go out.

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adam12 commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 6:10pm

Jezza, don't knock my paddling style. I've frog-kicked Bells for many years. It's my thing, what separates me from the average kook out in the line-up.
By the way, any chance of scoring the footage you got of me?

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jezza64 commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 6:35pm

I’m sure your paddling style is more than acceptable adam12. The NSP hire board and leg rope attached in the car park was a sure warning sign. I wasn’t the one filming so don’t have the footage.

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velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 9:01pm

This is a sobering article. Just in time for the beginning of the busy season too. Would agree with the golden rule if you cannot swim out/in independent of a board, don't go out.

Bonus tip: if you are predisposed, ask your doctor if carrying Asprin in wetsuit is a good idea.

What happened to the fellow who was spotted paddling in trouble out behind Southside/Jarosite a couple of weeks ago? Did he make it in? Next day the Addis road was cordoned off for a sad find, but was this a bushwalker?

Edit: there is no harm in taking a board in your car with you, or other forms of personal flotation device, even when not surfing. You are going to be driving up and down the coast more often than most people, and it might not be a surfer in trouble, but you might find yourself looking over a beach with swimmers being ripped out, and no one else around who can help.

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drodders commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 6:42pm

I've rescued a surfer at a 6-8ft reef break, I took off a little deep, bailed and when I came up, there was a guy next to me with wild eyes dog paddling. I asked if he was ok, then I gave him my board and swam dragging him behind me. He could not swim, had surfed for years. Pretty sure from the blokes I know many could not swim 500m in flat water? I can swim, but also have a Patagonia floatation vest cause I like to surf when it's a bit out of control and I get it to myself, a little risk reduction strategy.

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Island Bay commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 8:32am

Hey Drodders,
how are doing with that flotation vest? Does it significantly fuck up your duck diving?

Since getting my Desert Storm I've been enjoying going out in pretty horrendous conditions, like 35kt onshores and messy 5-6ft days.

Given that a lot of my surfing is solo and often well off the beaten track, safety is a bit of a concern.

Good article, BB. Cheers.

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drodders commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 7:29am

To be honest it's my fault the east coast is flat, I purchased the vest in May thinking I may need it in Fiji and would definitely need it during winter, nuthing over 6ft since... not sure duck diving will matter got it for surfing bommies and reefs that sit off shore, when it is triple oh duck diving a 7'6 DS is usually a lesson in humility anyway

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Jordan05 commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 7:15pm

Looks complicated to me. Maybe everyone should stay out of the water and stay safe.
Ha Ha Ha.

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Distracted commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 7:40pm

Blowin, I’m surprised you don’t anyone that has drowned in the surf.
Off the top of my head can think of four guys that have died in the surf nearby over the last few years. One was a tangled leggy, one possible bumped head and two possible heart attacks. Not sure how they would be separated by stats but essentially they all drowned.
it is a relatively dangerous sport if you think back of various injuries that you accumulate in the water over the years.

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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:12pm

It’s a dangerous sport alright.

It’s just that unless you have a heart attack or a blow to the head or get your leggie caught underwater , the risk of you drowning is very small.

Smaller than the risk of shark attack which the very author of this article has stated repeatedly is so infinitesimally small that it doesn’t really warrant a mention.

What I’m saying is that if you took the 53 “ surfer “ drownings and subtracted all the cases involving extraneous circumstances such as heart attack etc and then you remove all of the “surfers” included in the stats that you and I wouldn’t really classify as surfers then there is probably not such a large difference in statistics between getting attacked by a shark and drowning.

That wasn’t my point before ....but it is now.

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blindboy commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:31pm

A heart attack is not extraneous Blowin. They are not random events if it happens in the surf the most probable cause is over exertion and that is directly related to the fact that they were surfing. Further, if the heart attack itself was fatal it would not be included in the stats as water has to be present in the lungs for the death to be attributed to drowning. Your other argument is even weaker. You can redefine the word surfer if you like but you have no basis for attributing the majority of deaths to beginners or tourists. You might be right, but if you are wrong and people believe you. ..... well that has consequences.

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jshe35 commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 9:17pm

OK, OK.. look- I'm just saying- if you take out all the heart attacks, the leggies getting caught, the blows to the head and the guys whose lungs are filling up with water due to them not being able to swim anymore there wouldn't actually be many drownings. I have changed my original point OK haters !!!

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lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 7:53pm

I'm reminded of this scene from Endless summer 2.

With Pat's response, chuckling "Guys out there surfing and he can't even swim."

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gazzee commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:08pm

Watch amazed theres not 1000 drownings a year..


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Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:35pm

Great article,
Lets get swimming everyone's a little rusty.
No leggie = surf fit.
Sorry Stu net.

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velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:58pm

Agree on the swimming LD - a lot of the champion surfers like MP and the old north shore legends were competitive middle distance swimmers.

Distracted's picture
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Distracted commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 9:29pm

Not just kookslams but the guys surfing big Cloudbreak or Chopes and going over the falls onto reef. Incredible there aren’t more dying

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 9:35pm

Yeah , good call.

I’ll probably drown after saying all that stuff. Swimming makes you feel awesome anyway.

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soggydog commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 10:22pm

I’ve had to swim a heart attack victim in through the surf. The most exhausting experience of my life, and I’m a pretty fit guy, strong swimmer. Then after that you get to do CPR for about an hour.
I now leave a set of swim fins in the Ute and gym/ train 4 nights a week.

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CryptoKnight commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 11:05pm

I saw a good surfer drown at Yorkes years ago. He got pulled out of the water with his lungs full of sand. Heavy for all, including his lady on the beach.

The Cutloose Yorke’s Classic is held on the southern tip of Yorke Peninsula around the Stenhouse Bay area during October over a 3 day period. Surfers battle for the coveted ‘Keith Sugars Memorial Trophy’ presented in memory of well - respected competitor, Keith Sugars, who was lost in the inaugural Yorke’s Classic in1983 during a tragic drowning mishap at ‘Richard’s’ in Pondalowie Bay.'

This guy was lucky, same place.

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rooftop commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 12:21am

@jimbrown, there was an excellent article on here a year or two ago on what drowning looks like. Contrary to expectations it's not a lot of thrashing and screaming. It's often quiet as the person is so desperately focussed on keeping their mouth above water and getting air in their lungs it's almost impossible for them to call out.

It opened my eyes. Anyone find the link? Might be a good time to revisit it.

saltman's picture
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saltman commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 8:37am

I remember it
The term they gave the action when someone is drowning was climing the ladder I think

jimbrown's picture
jimbrown's picture
jimbrown commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 11:04am

Extraordinary isn't it! Reading that changed my perspective completely

rooftop's picture
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rooftop commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 6:28pm

That's the one. Brilliant.

Coastal's picture
Coastal's picture
Coastal commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 7:54am

One of the best "attributes" of surfing is that young macho males can put themselves in situations that can feel scary but are actually reasonably safe. They can push their limits, and sure they might get battered a bit but serious injuries are surprisingly rare. By contrast, if you do this in other action sports you're much more likely to die. I've surfed for 50 years and don't know anyone who has been seriously injured (dumb luck perhaps). But I know numerous people who have been injured skiing or mountain biking. And a couple of people who have died climbing mountains.

In direct contrast to surfing, skiing can feel very safe but is surprisingly dangerous.

jimbrown's picture
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jimbrown commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 11:07am

It is such an under-appreciated aspect of surfing. I'm a pretty cautious person on land but I have always relished the adrenaline that it gives me while, as you say, it is also reasonably safe. Also have one mate who is ridiculously over-cautious on land but, in fact, a pretty full-on charger in the water.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 10:26am

Gold Coast death Toll of Boardriders is on the rise.{R.IP.} to all mentioned.
Rare to find a beach without a tragedy.
(Part 1) Accidental Drownings of Boardriders

Some beaches such a Fingal Head have drownings each year...
A young Japanese Boardrider this year & A young Bodyboarder last year. Both good surfers!

Sadly many Groms & younger Boardriders dominate statistics with freak accidents.
Kurrawa Beach haunts Aussies... recall it was 2 surf Craft colliding prior to one drowning.
Nobby's Beach Grom's leggy was tangled in rogue Shark Nets
Broadbeach Bodyboarder imploded by a killer barrel. Fellow booger said it was a just that!

Master Boardriders also suffer many near death experiences...
Luckily near fellow boardriders transfer them to shore where lifeguards revive them.

Without craft or assist I've rescued more than a few Bodyboarders/Boardriders.
(Pause)Time again when I or fellow rescuers wavedown boardriders for assist we're ignored.
Boardriders not 10 m away turn and paddle said above this is not always the case.
This selfish streak curses Boardriders only...A wax thing / gonna miss wave of the day ?
No offence but I only ask once for non equipped less fit folks to step up for rescues.
Crikey! Mad Huey's/Clubbies poked the Stunned Mullets of last summer's rescue of D Bah 7.

Rekindles the early bodybash'n days of late 1880's when goths haunted piers for corpses.
"The last gasp of air escapes the tormented soul as his hand reaches to the heavens!"
" You could see the exact moment that life had left his body!" ...Deck Chairs next week !

For the record...
News reports indicate GC lose 3-4 Boardriders lives at sea each year...(Breakdown)
*1 boardrider + *1 Bodyboarder + *1 Stillwater Board + *1 local Boardrider drowning o/seas.

Swellnetonians know better but I believe Bali claims 1 boardrider/month. A few from GC !

Continues ...(part 2)

Fozza's picture
Fozza's picture
Fozza commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 10:36am

These two would seem to know a bit about it I reckon......the HX brothers talk about near death experiences in the water

Chipper's picture
Chipper's picture
Chipper commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 12:11pm

Surfing is like all other water sports, has its risks ....... so with my kids I have made my kids do a non stop 1km pool swim (which I watch and judge) before they are allowed to start surfing and before they are allowed to get their boat licence.........

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yorkessurfer commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 1:14pm

I helped to save the guy in crypto’s second link at Pondie last summer. I’d just paddled in from a pretty solid session when a couple of kids ran up asking me to help their friends dad who was lying in the shorebreak on the edge of the sand.

The plan was to use my 7’0” fun board as a stretcher to cart him up the beach to the Fisherman’s village.
When we got to him some of his family and friends had him in the recovery position but he was blue. I’d never seen a person that colour before.

He seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness and litres of foamy water and bile was coming out of his mouth every time he roused.

It was obvious to me that he was in no condition for a bumpy kilometre plus stretcher carry up the beach so I sent a couple of lads to run back and get their 4wd down there, reminding them to deflate the tyres as it’s easy to get stuck in the soft sand.

We waited 20 minutes or so and slowly the old guy’s colour came back but he was still gargling up heaps of water. Finally when he seemed ready we got him on my board and moved him up the beach keeping him in the recovery position as the 4wd worked it’s way up the beach towards us.

We offloaded him into the tray and I left them and headed back up the Pondie boardwalk to my own 4wd and drove around towards the Fisherman Village where I came across the first responder ambulance heading towards the wrong car park so I redirected them back to the Fisherman’s Village.

I heard the helicopter but didn’t hang around after that but was relieved to hear he made it to hospital and survived. It was touch and go there for a while.

I really think it would of killed him if we tried to cart him off in a panic before he was ready.

It’s worth considering that if a drowning victim is in such a precarious state the best thing to do may be to stabilise them on the spot before trying to move them?

Scadz83's picture
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Scadz83 commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 1:22pm

"It’s worth considering that if a drowning victim is in such a precarious state the best thing to do may be to stabilise them on the spot before trying to move them?"

Spot on! Rushing a drowned patient down the beach without stabilizing the neck or checking the airways could be fatal.

pavlo's picture
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pavlo commented Wednesday, 9 Jan 2019 at 2:20pm

Well done mate, good on ya for giving assistance. Good to hear he made it. He was very lucky to survive by the sound of it. Did the guy happen to get knocked out in that super shallow Pondie shore break on a biggish day? It's a real trap for beginners / the unwary.


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Scadz83 commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 1:18pm

I've been a keen surfer since being a grom and recently became a clubbie too so I could help out my kiddies in the local nippers program. They also surf with me. Whilst I've gone to aid of a fair share of board riders while surfing I've also had to rescue them as a clubbie too, particularly wind surfers with equipment failure or a lack of ability in tough conditions. The stats put out by SLSA might not be 100% correct but from my first hand experience they are correct in stating some of us board riders do find ourselves in need of help at times. What is important is that us board riders recognize the danger and that drowning is certainly a possibility. Also I agree that a greater cooperation between Surfing Australia and SLSA in regards to a reduction in drowning can only be a healthy thing!

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 1:26pm

Scary stuff yorkes. I pulled in a guy who was clinically dead once and was just about to start resus when the captain of the local surf club turned up. He worked on him for 10 minutes before the paramedics arrived. The bloke survived, which emphasises the importance of refreshing your resus techniques regularly. It was also a classic example of not recognising quickly enough that he was in trouble.

Terminal's picture
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Terminal commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 1:52pm

Don't let scientific inquiry and statistical rigour get in the way of a good anecdote.....

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truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 3:11pm

Continues from (Part 1) Accidental Drownings (Above)

Please note Title it's not about anyone in particular.
( truebluebasher Salutes Patrols each and every surf also assists Boardriders always)

(Part 2) Institutionalized Drownings...the ones we don't dare talk about.

Recap (Part 1) Boardriders are always the last to assist in a rescue...
Early last century news/letters reported Boardriders as cowardly folk .
Bumping off swimmers then bailing as they left victims to drown in the ocean.
Boardriders further painted own yellow stripe by bolting at the first sniff of SLSC patrols.
Not so much dereliction of duty...Float your own Boat best describes their arrogance!

SLSC come under the pump for having less to do about safety as to Local MP's Pokie Pile.
Most Ply swimmers with grog then roll them down the dunes for recycled rescue Patrols.
This it turn wins more pokies more grog more rescues more pokies more grog more rescues.
This fits in with Feature Story... SLSC are the nearest beach Bars to supply boardriders.

Ask! How safe to fire off 50 clubbies at once without care to incoming Big Wednesday.
This insane carnage has gladiators spearing oars weaponized craft as one Battle arena
Surfboats thru same line up. Ask if one boat surfing another is in local boaties guidebook

Not very good at sitting out Cyclones either...Cyclone Debbie grounded 10,000 SLSA Fleet.
Meanwhile Townsfolk were drowning in all rivers without a plastic bag for support.
Our finest rescuers were shitting in caps on RSL bar Counters. Rescue craft still high & dry.
Surf Rescue is more their thing/Flatwater is the Royal Life Savers..Drowning folk don't mind!

SLS events last hours/days but never do they require any to Bodysurf more than one wave.
Fact! ALL swimmers bodysurf more waves in/out of wave zone than trained Patrol crew .
Fact! Bodysurfers count on Clubbies setting up in Rips each weekend...Super Cool-Let's Surf.

2 Local Groms (Minors) were cast into Cyclonic Surf for WR Rescue Fodder.(Insane!)
Drone hovered over kidz head...The very next outing that same drone ditched into ocean!
WR Drowning surveillance Drone...WR Drowned corpse Recovery Drone...Govt is claiming!
That's the state of play Folks....Sacrificing Minors/Corpse Promos for SLS NSW Pollie Points.
Note: Same Govt just suffered 30% swing against them to lose seat they held for 60 years.

Return of the Weathermen Surf Godz...
State Govt's online power now over rides Councils/SLSC Surf Safety .
If BOM or the TV Weatherman mentions the code word "LOW" it activates [BEACH CLOSED]
4 days closed in lead up & usually 4 days closed in chocolate soup trail... (Big Surf or not)
4 cyclones now shut down 1 month of summer...but for who?

[BEACH CLOSED] No fines for WSL half drowned cameramen lost at sea .(So easily happen!)
Same cyclone has off duty SLSC Ironmen banned from entering surf to rescue them .
Surf Comp Jet Ski one arm over Life Jackets is lazy but shames safety practice of late.

Comm Games Baton was twirled about the 7 seas never once did we see a CG Life Vest.
Strange that biggest best Water Safety Promo ever went un-sponsored by SLSA Surf Brands?
No! This isn't a bitch ...I raised this with Games Minister prior to Oz baton relay.
I raised that all costly exotic shots of Baton are now worthless unsafe Oz promos.
Some of these promos were no better than Tinny Rats promos no one gave a rats.

Back to weathermen that campaign for Boardriderz to be granted a week off with pay.
24 hr News is camped at The Point all are weeping over piles of snapped boards in bins...
SURF AID runs all week please give generously as some surfers have resorted to handplanes'
Stay Tuned for devastating ACA Story about the Grom who snapped his board on first wave.
Premier's [Surf's Up] State of Emergency! SES will get a Surfboard to everyone just stay put.

Cyclonic Boardriders drip feed Breakfast TV...
'What would you like to say to your Boss'....Wait up!... 'Can he say the'C word' on live TV' ?

Tsunami Alerts for Great Divide/back of beyond.Everyone is headed for the ocean...
Biggest line-up ever & City awaits patiently alongside SES Tsunami Boardriderz club.
It's legal to surf a Tsunami on a beer mat. Dip a toe without & it's Dutto's Dungeon 4 life.
Don't believe me ...just try it brother...Helicopters/Drones/Dog Squads hound Bikini Babes.
Get off the Beach NOW! For gods sakes you Crazy Bitch put a surf mat on or something!

Fair to say we overfilled the raised bar level at the deep end...
Naive to think we can rescue ourselves from ourselves....How the hell would that even work?

Bob Sacamano's picture
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Bob Sacamano commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 3:15pm

"If you torture data long enough, it will confess anything."

Terminal's picture
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Terminal commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 4:09pm

Gold! Sounds like a phrase the Lavoisier Group would use, or an economist...

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iwwallace commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 3:21pm

I am 54 and now on a log. Have surfed most of my life but not daily. I had a mild heart attack a couple of years ago at Torquay, surf was nice, about 4 foot and I was initially hesitant at coming in as I was enjoying myself so so much. Lesson learned. Anyway. Years of "wisdom" have taught me, never go out pass your ability or comfort level. Surfing, to me, is about enjoying yourself and the ocean. Not sitting out the back where it is too big for you and you are just shitting yourself. Nothing to be ashamed of by sitting and watching rather than risking your own safety or that of others who have to drag you out. Know your ability and enjoy it.

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Cheese Sandwich commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 7:42pm


mowgli's picture
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mowgli commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 11:33pm

TL:DR all the comments so apologies if this was mentioned already...

"so their total risk is the annual risk multiplied by how ever many years they surf"

That's not how cumulative probability is determined...

For example, something that has a 1% probability of occurring in any given year, has around a 42% probability (or thereabouts) of occurring within a period of 50 consecutive years.

nah....yeah...but, nah

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 7:58am

Thanks mowgli, I knew someone would pick that up. I should have said "approximately ".

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stunet commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 8:14am

Rob said, “I don’t even know how to swim but if you drop me at second reef Pipe I’m sure I’ll figure out how to get to the beach.”

“Really?” I responded “You really don’t know how to swim?”

“I mean kind of…” he said, “…but not well at all.”

Rob is Rob Machado. Pipe master, terrible swimmer.

redmondo's picture
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redmondo commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 10:04am

Having the right equipment helps have been under gunned many times and have eaten it badly. Eating lots of nutri grain helps. And my god there are clueless ones out there I've rescued many not sure if I would help if they were in a boy band. And there is no way I am getting a long board or a mat, it is a depressing article really. I am going to become a weathered old has been! Thanks a lot BB.

Red Clement

crg's picture
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crg commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 2:49pm

Personal Responsibility.
For your ability to swim.
To know CPR and resuscitation.
To know basic first aid.

Pretty easy things to say but quite a different story in reality. You only really think about it when you need it and then it's too late.
In over 30 years exposure to first aid training I've had to resuscitate and perform CPR 4 times and they all died. A motorbike accident, a heart attack, a stroke and a fall from a balcony. The heart attack and balcony fall I stabilised until the ambo's arrived but they later passed in hospital.
Pretty graphic experiences but they now enable me to deal with these circumstances pretty calmly and at a pretty high level.
Just 2 weeks ago I walked into a local book shop to find a lady collapsed on the floor having a seizure and treated her accordingly until the paramedics arrived. The response from the shop owner, the shopping centre manager and security guards was atrocious. Sheer panic and lack of procedural knowledge especially from the centre manager and security guard who had first aid training.
No one wants to be in these situations but it's up to you to be prepared for them. If you're not bothered to be prepared then hope like hell someone else could be bothered when something happens to you.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

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truebluebasher commented Thursday, 20 Sep 2018 at 6:16pm

Most SLSC/Pools/Surf Lessons are now adaptive.
All here know of non swimming one armed Beth riding 40 ft waves

Myositis restricts my walking and swimming ability & local Lifeguards have noted that.
Lifeguards also compliment my surfing ability and swear I'm the least of their concern.
The fact I can't swim won't convince them otherwise.

Swimming is a help! But it helps to know where your swimming to and from.

Mountain to Sea safe surf guide contains a few firsts to help you along.( Happy to share!)

*Waterfalls/Cliff +Tree Jumps
(Risks: Sight Line/Height/Rocks/Keeps)
Use freinds to check depth/rocks/crowds + A signal to jumper ensures rescue option.
Always kick away from falls into open water mostly as undercurrent pulls deep into keeps.

*Lakes/Dams/Bays (sn exclusive)
(Risks: Supervision/exhaustion/cold swim zone/No island refuge)
Location is everything! Usually 2 currents play off each other but you won't see them.
Wind dictates the safest season & shore for your swim.(Spring is deadly/Summer is best)

Wind shifts the current across the Lake past centre then spirals down deep to the bottom.
Apply counter clockwise giant whirlswirl as a compass for your safe swim zone...
eg: South Wind (Safest up-well swim is on S/W Shore) (Hidden undertow zone is N/E shore)
Current depth changes by Season but just keep 1/4 back on the head of the wind direction.

Rivers/Streams Creeks (sn exclusive)
(Risks: Twisting nature/changing depth + speed)
Never enter a river from the inner bank as all surface water flows to opposite outer bank.
Should you need to get back to your inner bank don't struggle simply dive to mid depth.
Then pod mid depth current flow back to inner bank.

Should you need to return to your outer bank camp other than surface option.
Seek out a divergence (Boulder)that will flow a'deeper riverbed' current to outer bank.

Coastal Surf Rip
(Risks: Sheer exhaustion/Wave action/Visibility)
SLSA: Recommend treading water whilst raising an arm...( I can't agree to this iconic pose)
Mostly as swimmer becomes a writhing 100+ kg Plumb bob hanging off a chicken wing.
Spiraling to an early ocean grave as a human anchor should not be promoted...ever!
The swimming across Rip alternative wears me down just thinking about it.

If I may offer less exhausting options. (sn exclusive) 3 options to choose.

Float on your back...Now you're free to relax & raise your arm/s for all day if you like.
By now you are better placed to assist others nearby if need be.
Survey your surroundings by simple flutter steering. (If you can't choose safer/Simply relax)
You'll be rescued soon enough...

If no Life guards/Boardriderz etc and you wish to rescue yourself then read-on.
Navigating to a targeted safe place(Sand bank)... Begin kicking & sweep stroking your raft.

1st exit point is inside the middle wave zone...steadily flutter over...Timing is everything.
As the set waves pull out to meet approaching sets you'll need to dive under.
Just as river bank method you'll need to pod back to the bank back surfing return current
You'll need all three/four chances to inch closer each wave..... Ok! Missed it by this much!

Onto your Back again to conserve energy. If you can't try pod option again we'll go 'over' !
Simply steer close to bank until outer bank approaches we surf backward up the wave face.
Then kick down off the wave lip...Repeat 3 x ....Ok! So we missed out again.

Final option sees us on our back drifting well past the rising set waves.(This is always scary!)
Now we wait for ocean to drift us along into the line-up. Collar the waves toward the bank.
Once on the bank don't hurry! Suck in some Air...Likely to have a gutter to cross... Ready!

batfink's picture
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batfink commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 4:08am

More statistical than rigorous I would suggest. Cumulative probability also statistically valid but actually gives a poor picture of reality. Time spent in water is only more risky if you would have been doing something less risky when not in water. Good swimmer but shit driver means you're better off in the ocean.

The statistics on actual deaths are probably accurate but most of what SLSA puts out is questionable at best. I don't believe a word of there 'rescues performed by lifesavers on summer day's in the nightly news. Worse than anecdotal.

Can't remember being asked whether I'm a good swimmer. Been surfing for 30 years and in the water for 50 plus and no-one has ever asked me, what are the odds? What makes a good swimmer anyway, someone who is super fit or someone who knows not to panic. 20% 'self reporting' as poor swimmers/ unable to swim. How many did they ask, when and where. Representative sample?

It's always good to look through whatever hard or soft data you have but extreme scepticism has to go with reading them.

Like the road statistics 'where speeding was involved' - according to a police report which is skewed the instant it is measured, like Schrodinger's cat.

As for only surfing within your limits, well that just leaves you on the sand whenever it's over 3'. Testing your limits is part of the nature of the beast and there's nothing quite like the thrill of being out there and knowing you're a little over your head. In any case you might paddle out within your limits on a fast rising swell and soon find yourself beyond your limits. Never experienced that then you're not a surfer. Your age is the biggest factor in assessing how much risk to take, then your fitness and propensity to panic in tight situations. You will naturally reduce your risk profile as you get older, unless you're an old fool, and everyone knows there's no fool like an old fool.

Yes, the vast majority of humans are terrible risk managers, awful, appalling, so bad it's laughable/scary.

How many on here within 5 years of their retirement still have their superannuation set to high exposure to stock market movements. That'll give you a heart attack too.

Ok, covered a lot of rambling ground there. Forgive me, it's 4.00 am and I'm catching up on my swellnet stories.

redmondo's picture
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redmondo commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 5:47am

Yes Batfink questionable at best. I won't be donating to lifesavers again. You buy raffle tickets they get your number and they ring you up and hound you for more money for years. They probably make a enough on their pokie machines and selling booze. And I have seen some weekend lifesavers who don't look like they couldn't even save them selves. I resuscitated an overdose person once his friends were freaking and didn't know what to do. He had lock jaw but I managed to breath life into him, it felt good. Tried the same on a newborn calf it didn't make it felt bad.

Red Clement

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 8:59am

batfink the available statistics are so limited that trying to interpret them beyond a basic level is a waste of time. What they say quite clearly to me though is that many drowning deaths are avoidable and that a lot of surfers should give some thought to improving their swimming, stop surfing under the influence and spend a bit more time assessing the conditions. It might be nice to think all this applies only to beginners and those of limited ability but anecdotes (see some comments above) which is all we have, sugges otherwise.

bigtreeman's picture
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bigtreeman commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 6:07pm

My brother Trev died of a heart attack at 58 while on a wave. He was surf fit, surfed regularly all his life. We have a family history of heart attacks. I've had a heart attack and take all the precautions mentioned in the article. The information is useful, especially the effects of cold water, which I wasn't aware of.
But really, isn't that the best way to go!

Go well,

redmondo's picture
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redmondo commented Saturday, 22 Sep 2018 at 7:04pm

The lifesavers do wonderful work especially teaching youngsters bless them all.

Red Clement

redmondo's picture
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redmondo commented Tuesday, 25 Sep 2018 at 1:52pm

RCJ concerns me after that Nazarene ordeal. Look after yourself Ross love your work.

Red Clement

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Monday, 1 Oct 2018 at 8:41pm

blindboy presented drowning issues in good faith & got us all thinking...Good comments!
blindboy/myself & others raised concerns of serving and consumption of alcohol near surf.

It's only fair to point that Today the goal posts changed ends...
It won't make any here look stupid but Qld Lifesavers have a conflict of interest.

Newstead Brewing partnership with SLSQ..."Coastal Ale" 4.2% Commemorates...
Qld's first recorded rescue at Greenmount 21/2/1909 ( Here's their pitch...) No laughing!

*Under current of summer fruits
*Splash of Hoppy Bitterness
*Drop will go down as quickly as a stone in the ocean
*Raise a Glass & Raise some funds for Lifesaving Heroes
*Refresh & Revive!
*Placing "Don't Drink & Swim" message into the Hands Of Queenslanders.

Fellow Swellnetonians may think I wrote that!
I kid you not, that is word for wold the message from our Heroes...100% SLSQ
My wordy it is! They sat in on this & shaped the whole deal from start to finish.

(How to Win a bet & a Coastal Ale from a Cooly Kid) Listen up crew...Free beer is yours!
1905/08/09 -Southport's Jack Tuesly RHS awards for Southport Bar Rescues
1847- North Straddie Aborigines awarded for rescuing 10 from huge surf in sea of sharks
These two are just some of dozens of rescues I've reported that precede SLSQ 1909 date.
Quote my brochure "Monumental Idol" & Compendium- Waves of Seafarers @ GCCC Libary

In every way this a black day for Surf Lifesaving Queensland.

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jasonshipway commented Saturday, 6 Oct 2018 at 7:11pm

Long time reader, first time poster here. I read this story a couple of weeks ago and scoffed at the idea a surfer couldn't swim. I grew up in the ocean and surfed almost every day for ten years until I moved away for work. There was no beach where I lived and surfing went to the back of my mind. I moved back to the area a few months ago and rediscovered my love of the waves. Since I moved I've treated my body poorly, put on a bit of weight, and lost all cardio I had. I didn't realise this until today. I was surfing (1.2m east swell). And my leash snapped. I came off a wave and got pumped (as much as a 1.2m east swell can do) and came up breathless. I was in shoulder height water and in the middle of the rip. For some reason, all I knew evaded me. I panicked. My legs and arms felt heavy and would barely move. I couldn't breath. Finally a wave pushed me in. I crawled onto the beach and sat there for 10 minutes trying to breath properly again. I realised while I was sitting there that I'm now a surfer who cannot swim. I'm starting training to fix my body tomorrow but thought I'd post because this is real. Embarrassing right? My girls almost didn't have their dad come home in a 1.2m swell because he was a surfer who couldn't swim any more.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Saturday, 6 Oct 2018 at 7:18pm

Great post Jason and its so easy to lose fitness,as i found out last year.........


truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Monday, 15 Oct 2018 at 3:41pm

News just in! Noosa Nat Park (Dolphin Point)
34 y/old Boodyboarder tried getting out off he rocks
20mins later is life is on the line with chopper racing him to Hospital.
Surfers tried reviving him & Lifeguard says there was no response.
Channel 9 has pronounced the surfer dead!

Swellnetonians wish for a happier ending. Stay safe one & all.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Monday, 15 Oct 2018 at 4:22pm

We all wanna think otherwise but other reports are confirming the bodyboarder died.
Sunshine Coast Daily also confirmed an hour ago.
{R.I.P} Wave of the Day ~ ~~/C..>[=`}o....*)
So sad take it easy crew!

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 9 Jan 2019 at 1:46pm

19/12/2018 {R.I.P} John Macnamarra 70 y/o paddle/boardrider- Snapper/Greenmount
Macca was said to have been knocked in the head by his own board.(Drowning)

Back then so early in the Summer the higher than normal drowning toll was reported.

Sad to inform that Summer Drowning Toll has exceeded 2017/18 Total {49}
2016/17 Total {41} > Average Summer Drownings Total {36}

Seemingly in first week of 2019 with most of summer ahead we're in deeper water.
2018/19 current Summer drowning Toll {53}

Note: SLSA 2017/18 don't break up drownings statistics...possibly for a reason.
SLSA signal Rips as the Cash Cow! For good reason I guess.(Not the full story)
River/Creek/Dams present as highest statistic.(Young Men+ grog + fishermen)

Rescue funding follows up market pollie's patch never Drowning Hot Spots.
A bit harsh? Any recall last LNP by-election.This will make your eyes water.

I recall RLSS Sunbirds patrolling Budds Beach (Surfers') Nerang River 1970/80's.
Gold Coast now has several river enclosures (sharks) but still many drownings.

Here's the last surviving Vicco River Rescue...

Stay Safe enjoy the Summer once the Bluebottles move on of course.

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chewgill's picture
chewgill commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 9:04am

I died in the surf, literary died…hit by the board, drowned and then had a massive heart attack, loss consciousness, died and came back. As the surfing older, we now see a few of us dropping off the perch (or the wave), in the ocean with heart attacks. I did a radio interview on my miracle survival for ABC National, here’s the link for anyone interested :… The upshot is I’m now back in the water taking water shots and surfing occasionally, except now with a onboard defrib, the ocean and surf photography is way too addictive to give up, even though a fear still lingers, it’s replaced by a healthy respect for the ocean and life…(message get your ticker checked)


truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 11:19am

Great to have you with us chewgill most gracious of you to share.
Not only your incredible story but also your amazing photos.(Link-Chris's surf photos)

Your post hit home that this can also happen to the most healthy of young hearts.

In my case I was wading in an under 10's Nipper Race.
Happy rounding the last back wave marker in 3rd place (Not 1st nor tail end)
Next I knew I woke with intense chest pain in the Beach Tent.
Then a child of smaller frame a BlueBottle had wrapped my chest several times.

Considering my toxic shock/blackout...I too was as good as dead without rescue.
Healthy heart for us oldies but also precaution for our brave & small.
Marine creature tentacles can wrap fourfold around a child's neck/chest (Deadly!)

We're all well aware the younger body heals faster.
This makes chewgill's recovery all the more precious.

My CPAP v (Water resistant - Prototype Waterproof AED) Chris is this AED a first ?
Don't take link the wrong way as you're equally likely to be an inspiration to many.

Love your work chewgill we're all healthier & wiser from you sharing.

Wave of the day ~~-~/C__~[#-chris )

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 8:36pm

17 year old boy drowned / disappeared at Parsons in SA yesterday. RIP.

That stretch is not a spot for swimming on even the smallest of days unless you’re comfortable swimming in surf.

Makes me think that as surfers / ocean goers we should be more proactive telling people to be careful or not to swim at all at surf beaches particularly at the more isolated spots where help is non-existent.

pavlo's picture
pavlo's picture
pavlo commented Thursday, 17 Jan 2019 at 11:36am

What a shame that young fella lost his life out there. Parsons is one off the rippiest places I've surfed, even on small days. Definitely not a spot for swimming or even wading, especially not for poor swimmers. Parsons is kind of remote and as far as I know it's not a patrolled beach.

Unfortunately a lot of people go to beaches like that totally unaware of the dangers, yet it can look beautiful and inviting. I believe he was from Afghanistan and the distraught father was rescued by a lone surfer (I heard he was the only one out at the time).

According to a radio interview I heard today with the surfer who rescued the father, there was a serious communication issue with the father (and probably the boy too) not speaking English and therefore probably not being able to read the warning signs in English.
R.I.P. to the boy. Condolences to the father and family.


tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 9:12pm

Many of us do this Bnkref . Rock fishing is another example . You can't put brains in monuments.

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Thursday, 17 Jan 2019 at 11:31am

Good one tubeshooter. I'll be more vocal in the future. Am always on the lookout for people out of their depth but I've never actually had a word to anyone.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Sunday, 27 Jan 2019 at 5:28pm

[Warning] Gnarly content.
[L] Space Cadet trawlerman hits a another speed bump.
"Outta my way You!"..."Geez Mum are you Spazz! Can't you even vacuum properly!"

[Vote Now] [A] [B] [C] [D] Shark to Circle Back!



OZ summer

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Sunday, 27 Jan 2019 at 10:57pm

Im old do a lot of surfing overseas indo ,Hawaii big wave spots where I live
that's why I live there have a young absolute nut case charger 16 year old son
who has zero fear who expects me to go out with him in anything and had 5 fractures
in my back 15 months ago lost a lot if not all my confidence in the water and thought
I was going to drown in the local swimming pool when I was in rehab and this may
sound soft but I now wear a Patagonia flotation vest in big and dangerous surf and
I think its the best thing ever to stop you from drowning and give you that edge when you need it. Just got back from Hawaii and used it at big Haleiwa and Sunset
you would be surprised just how many surfers use them over there.
Highly recommended for old kooks like me might save your life.

IF im not surfing im racing

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 28 Jan 2019 at 6:35pm

I can see how that might work for some. Me? At this stage of my surfing career I hope never to experience a hold down long enough for me to even contemplate the need for an inflation vest. If it looks like a possibility I leave it to the young blokes.

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Monday, 28 Jan 2019 at 10:33pm

A lot of young blokes in Hawaii wear them. Evan Slater out Haleiwa,
JOB out at pipe plus more almost everybody out at 18-20ft Waimea
they are really comfortable and to be honest you really arnt aware you
have one on. My pick is the short John version.

IF im not surfing im racing

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Thursday, 21 Feb 2019 at 4:30pm

In earlier posts I informed of Media being alert to record drownings.
19/12/2018 Media informed of higher than normal drownings.
23/1/2019 'We're likely to pass 2011 record drownings by end of summer.'

104 deaths reaches a new high with a week of cyclonic Summer to go.
Take care Australia. { R.I.P } to fallen never forgotten watermen/women.

Media reported chaos looming at start of summer. News no one wanted.
I say this is a rare time to salute the media for the sobering wake up call.

Thoughtful swellnetonians have shared plenty of free lifesaving tips above!
Message to Pollies: Not a bad place to start with some sound advice here.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 3 Jul 2019 at 3:38pm
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 4 Dec 2019 at 6:05pm

2 time national Champ aged 40 dies surfing Semi Final of Brazil's Triple Crown.

4th July Celebrations also saw 42 y/old surfer drown in Waco Wave Pool (later died in hospital).

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 8 Jul 2020 at 8:29pm

Surfers feel for Rob {RIP} & also that Rock Legend who copped a pounding.

Post Covid-19 fully equipped water tragedies defy belief...downright grim reading.
Here's the sad start to Oz by the sea in July 2020 {rip} To all lost souls.

2nd July Jetski double 19/20 flipped at Brighton > Boat rescue (CPR) > [+] critical.
4th July Female Scuba Diver 53 drowns at Gordons Bay
4th July Spear fisherman 20 taken by Large Shark off WH K'gari at Indian Head
5th July Boat capsizes near Lighthouse -3 rescued > died onshore at La Perouse
5th July Empty Boat found, later Fisherman in 60's found drowned at Maria Island.
5th July Murray River Boat crew of 5 hit a submerged tree & Mother 40 drowns.
7th July Vehicle launches off road into Richmond R Ballina 17 yr/girl driver drowns
8th July Olympic Team Capt 32 drowns spear fishing on new Goldie artificial Reef

Difficult to fathom that all were well provisioned before striking trouble in Water.
Highly possible that this false sense of security was their sad!

PS: tbb & other watermen here are not alone in thoughts for kindred water spirits.
Salute to The Guardian for also unravelling these recent shocking water events.
Could be a sign that we're letting our guard down in a heightened state. Take care!

blowfly's picture
blowfly's picture
blowfly commented Wednesday, 8 Jul 2020 at 8:39pm

The latest fatality involved free diving with a weight belt. The actual cause of death is not yet known but when people hold their breath for extended periods of time under water, they are likely to pass out with no warning and drown.