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deals across the country, Surf Life Saving Australia is again pleading with people visiting the Australian coastline to think about safety after statistics show a deadly increase in summer drownings and fatalities on our coastline.

70 people lost their lives on the Australian coastline this summer representing an 11 per cent increase on the 10-year average and a nine per cent increase from Summer 2019-20.

With three quarters of all drowning deaths occurring greater than 1 kilometre from a surf lifesaving service, SLSA General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw ESM said the message is clear; you need to swim at patrolled beaches where possible.

“What we have seen occur on our beaches and along our coastline this Summer is devastating and very alarming,” Daw said.

“The highest number of summer drowning deaths were related to swimming and wading, but there has been a significant increase in drowning deaths of rock fishers and bystanders attempting to rescue someone else. There were five bystander rescue drowning deaths recorded this Summer, which alarmingly is just above the average number for a whole year.

“Rip currents were a dominant factor for all (100%) fatal summer bystander rescues and half (51%) of summer swimming and wading drowning deaths.”

Fatal bystander rescues accounted for ten per cent of Summer drowning deaths but, alarmingly increased by 240 per cent above the 10-year average, while rock fishing deaths accounted for 12 per cent of drowning deaths, representing an 83 per cent increase from the 10-year average.

“We have also seen a dramatic rise in the amount of summer drowning deaths at rock and cliff locations, largely linked to the increase observed in rock fishing drowning deaths,” Daw said.

“It is paramount that if you are going rock fishing to check conditions, know your limits and most importantly wear a lifejacket, in almost all instances of a rock fishing drowning the victim was not wearing a lifejacket, while many were fishing in notoriously dangerous spots.”

Almost half of summer drowning deaths (46%) involved intrastate visitors who lived more than 50km from the drowning location but remained in their home state. While this needs further investigation, it potentially reflects on impacts from COVID-19 with travel restrictions resulting in people visiting unfamiliar locations.

For more information on how to stay safe when visiting the beach or coastline, as well as find your nearest patrolled locations visit or download the BeachSafe APP.

Statistics for summer:

  • 70 people died on the Australian coast this summer
  • 49 were due to drowning
  • 88% of fatalities were male
  • Rip currents were linked to 100% summer bystander rescue drowning deaths
  • 1 in 2 swimming and wading summer drowning deaths were linked to rip currents
  • 46% summer drowning deaths were intrastate visitors who lived more than 50km from the drowning location

Safety tips:

  • Swim at a patrolled beach between the flags – this way you will have surf lifesavers or lifeguards on hand to assist if you get into trouble
  • Supervise children on, in and around water at all times – this may assist in preventing them getting into difficulty in the first place.
  • For young children stay within arm’s reach.
  • Wear a lifejacket if you are going rock fishing, fishing, boating or on and around water
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs while undertaking water activities

If something goes wrong:

  • Ask someone to call 000
  • Yell for help from others and to attract attention
  • As you are heading to the water look for something you can use to reach them
  • If you have to go into the water look around for something that floats, i.e. a boogie board, lifejacket, surf boat, floatation toy, esky (or esky lid) – this will assist you to stay afloat and them