'Dr Rip's' surf danger warning for swimmers as heatwave looms

Rip watch: Free ocean safety events are being held at North Cronulla Life Saving Club this month. Picture: Chris Lane
Rip watch: Free ocean safety events are being held at North Cronulla Life Saving Club this month. Picture: Chris Lane

With a heatwave set to take hold across Sydney this week, ocean swimmers are again being advised to swim between the flags – or risk becoming part of a worrying statistic.

Since December 1, drownings have jumped 54 per cent compared with last year, with 51 people losing their lives across the nation in waterways since the beginning of summer.

In NSW, 14 people have drowned in this time. 

Temperatures are predicted to climb into the mid to high 30s this week, with hot conditions attracting large swarms of people to beaches and waterways.

Sutherland Shire Council is hosting an educational event this month to help people understand the power of the ocean.

Science of the Surf at North Cronulla Surf Lifesaving Club will employ the skills of Rob Brander  – Australia’s best known surf scientist also known as “Dr Rip”. 

There will be two sessions on January 16, at 10am and 2pm, to teach swimmers about how to spot a rip and what to do if caught in one.

If conditions permit, he will release a dye into the water, to show how quickly a current can move, and pull a swimmer out to sea.

The council’s emergency response beacon will also be in operation at Greenhills beach from 7am – 4pm Monday to Sunday, for people to activate if there is someone in trouble.

It recently launched its new signage to help people from non-English speaking backgrounds with understanding beach safety. 

Bookings (limited to 70 people per sessions) for the free rip event are essential and details are available here.

In the Royal National Park, Figure 8 Pools – a popular hot spot for park tourists, is also a risky area for swimmers.

Popular spot: Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park is also a dangerous area for swimmers. Picture: Chris Lane

Popular spot: Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park is also a dangerous area for swimmers. Picture: Chris Lane

Situated on a rock shelf near Burning Palms Beach, the pools are particularly dangerous during high tide in the afternoon from 4pm-9pm.

People have been known to be thrown against or dragged across rocks as waves crash over the pools. 

A new online warning system that predicts wave conditions up to four days in advance aims to reduce potential injuries.

The summer water safety warning also extends to residential pool owners. 

On January 3 just this year, a one-year-old girl nearly drowned at Kurnell, where she quietly slipped into a backyard pool, to the horror of her family.

Ella Zirps was blue in the face when she was yanked from the pool. The quick actions of the father Michael, uncle Joel and four-year-old brother, saved her life, while her mother Tameeka rushed to call an ambulance.

Thanks to his first aid training, her father Michael started CPR on his daughter.

“We have learnt the hard way and we got lucky,” he said on Facebook. “Those few minutes are vital.”

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