Beach and Water Safety

All beach user groups and the broader community need to develop a sound level of knowledge, practical skills and understandings of what to do when visiting our beaches, aquatic facilities and other open water locations. Decisions about where to bathe, swim, surf and use recreational water craft are key not only for enjoyment, but also for personal safety and the safety of others. Minimising risk in and around coastal waters, aquatic facilities including wave pools and adopting care for the beach water environment are important for maintaining continued use of beautiful beaches and waterways. Apart from water safety information located here, APOLA water safety education and training programs cater for preschool, school, adult, senior adult, specific needs groups including surf coaches, school teachers and lifeguards. Check out beach water safety information and/or visit Training & Education for information about the APOLA training and education programs.

Beach & Water Safety – Tips for Bathers and Swimmers

  • Bathe and swim between the red and yellow flags which indicate the supervised swimming area – No Flags = No Swim
  • Look for, read and obey water safety signs
  • Check water conditions and water depth before swimming – never dive head first
  • Bathe and swim under supervision or swim with a mate – never go in alone
  • Never bathe and swim directly after eating or under the influence of drugs including alcohol
  • Learn how to recognise rips and keep clear of these areas – if caught in a rip stay calm, float with the current, call out HELP and wave an arm to gain attention of nearby surfers or lifeguards – FLOAT to SURVIVE
  • Always use sunscreen to protect exposed skin, put on a shirt, wear sunglasses and a hat when not swimming and drink plenty of water

Professional ocean lifeguard work requires an individual to be experienced in surfing, well trained in communication and rescue and highly motivated for preventing beach and water related accidents. Personal requirements include being:

  • Physically fit.
  • Highly skilled in swimming, surfing and using rescue and first aid equipment.
  • Capable of remaining constantly alert using highly developed observation and surveillance skills.
  • Capable of reading the changing ocean and weather conditions.
  • Able to identify hazards, assess risk, anticipate danger and act effectively to prevent and manage incidents including rescues and other medical emergencies.
  • Act efficiently in critical incident situations that demand the use of acquired knowledge, skill and determination necessary to preserve or save human life.
  • Knowledgeable in regulations pertaining to the beach, capable of resolving conflict and managing all activity at beaches including educating beach users to adopt a risk management approach

Contact APOLA for a full information kit.

Education and Training

APOLA, through the APOLA Board of Education, Training, Examination and Awards, provides a comprehensive awards system for professional lifeguards and community groups as well as a number of specific education and training initiatives in concert with other professional bodies The community awards strand includes water safety education and training for pre school, school, adult, senior adult, workplace, aquatic sports coaches, teachers and high needs groups.

Contact APOLA or check the Noticeboard on this website for training with an aquatic focus and more for information on accredited training courses in: First Aid, Advanced Resuscitation, Spinal Management, Automatic External Defibrillation and specific rescue equipment awards such as LPC (jet ski with rescue sled). Training for school teachers, surf coaches and ocean lifeguards is also available as PDF downloads.

‘Stay Safe on Australian Beaches Multilingual Videos’

These videos are available in English, Japanese, Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin and were developed by APOLA professional ocean lifeguards with financial support from the NSW State Government.

Each video is introduced by two times world champion long-board surfer Harley Ingleby and describes what hazards may be found at the beach, how to manage and avoid these hazards, and tips on how to learn new surf skills to make beach visits fun and enjoyable.

‘Multilingual Backpack Beach Survival Guide Pamphlets’

These pamphlets are available in Arabic, Cantonese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish and and were developed by APOLA professional ocean lifeguards with financial support from the NSW State Government.

Each pamphlet carries the theme ‘Don’t Drown on our Australian Beaches’ and lists 6 important messages on how to identify, manage and avoid hazards including rips.  ‘Don’t Get Sucked In by the Rip’ pictures and text reinforce what to do if you are caught in a rip – FLOAT, RELAX and SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Back-packer pamphlet-English Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-French Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-German Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Mandarin Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Arabic Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Cantonese Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Spanish Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlets-Japanese Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Russian Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Korean Ver 3-min
Back-Packer Pamphlet-Italian Ver 3-min

APOLA Surfboard Rescue

Surfcraft rescues using personal surfcraft including shortboards, longboards or bodyboards and other craft such as lifeguard rescue boards and stand-up paddle boards (SUP) or any flotation device is covered in all practical based lifeguard and community awards.
Surfcraft rescue training includes paddling to an in-need person, assessing the situation with attention to patient approach and decisions about patient pick-up techniques such as side-by-side, rollover, duck-dive (scoop) and leg-hook.  Check out some of these techniques as demonstrated by a few of the Vaughan waterman family members.


Surf Educators International is an association inviting global membership and affiliation to surf educators and relevant groups. Formed in Australia in 2010 due to the great need for consistent Surf Education messages and programs. Surf Educators International was created to ensure that a valid and credible surf safety message is disseminated in a clear and understandable way to all. (See Rip and surf safety brochure)

Float to Survive


In association with SURF EDUCATORS INTERNATIONAL the “Float to Survive” national program was launched by Surf Educators International founding President Craig “Riddo” Riddington and current Surf Educators International President Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins at the 25th Annual National Professional Ocean Lifeguard Conference held at Sandon Point NSW May 2021 .

“Float to Survive” is the key water safety message for all entering and using aquatic environments for work, play and leisure.

Downloadable Documents

Sharksmart Brochure
Surfers Code
APOLA Water Safety Tips Sep 2022
A Flyer Dr Rip’s Essential Beach Book
SEI Rip Survival Poster
SEI Poster Rips Float to Survive 2022
Float to Survive water safety message Dec 2022