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Study says untrained surfers as valuable as lifesavers

Rip current warnings © Julian Bleecker


Water Safety

Plans to train surfers in lifesaving hits the table

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 8 February, 2015 - Recreational surfers are saving as many people from drowning as volunteer surf lifesavers and a new study suggests they undergo further training to prepare them for the "eventuality of having to perform a rescue".The study, Guardians of the Surf: The role and value of surfers in Australian beach and coastal surf rescues.

The study, Guardians of the Surf: The role and value of surfers in Australian beach and coastal surf rescues, by Anna Attard found that 63 per cent of surfers felt they had saved a life but that value may be enhanced through improved training.

She calculates that the number of surfer rescues must be significant. "It would equate to 5000 rescues per year, which is comparable to the number of yearly rescues conducted by volunteer surf lifesavers.

Ms Attard found that surfers perform a considerable number of rescues in both patrolled (45 per cent) and unpatrolled (54 per cent) beach locations. She also states: "Surfers with prior water-safety training are more likely to perform a higher number of rescues, however ability to perform rescues is not associated with formal training but rather number of years' experience surfing."

She concludes: "This study clearly demonstrates that surfers are found in locations that can be hazardous to swimmers and inexperienced surfers and are often in a position to assist beach users who find themselves in trouble. However, inexperienced surfers are sometimes more hindrance than help, if they do not have the knowledge or experience to perform a successful rescue. Additionally this study identified a gap in surfer ability of treating severe injuries.

"This suggests that further training of both experienced and inexperienced surfers would help to prepare them for the eventuality of a surfer-performed rescue.''

The findings based on 545 replies conducted by online survey come after three-time runner-up world championship surfer Sally Fitzgibbons revealed she had towed a man in his 40s caught in a rip to safety outside patrol hours at Werri Beach beach south of Kiama in the new year.

Tim Barlass

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