Keeping Safe At The Beach

23 April 2020

With warm clean sand, coral reefs, shipwrecks and more, it’s no wonder Western Australia’s beaches are considered among the most beautiful in the world.

As it’s officially summer and you’ll no doubt be hitting the beach over the coming months, we would like to offer some safety advice for beach visitors.

Swim between the flags

Have you seen red and yellow flags on the beach? That means there is currently a lifesaving service operating on that beach, and the surf lifesavers and lifeguards believe that area of the beach is best for swimming. When the flags are up, the surf lifesavers and lifeguards will pay more attention to that area of beach than any other.

Most Perth beaches are patrolled by professional lifesavers and lifeguards between October and April. A list of patrolled beaches can be found here.

We also recommend you read any warning signs around the beach to make sure you understand the surf and tidal conditions. If you are not a strong swimmer or you are unsure of surf conditions, ask a lifesaver for advice and consider swimming with a friend. The water is one place that you do not want to get out of your comfort zone.

What to do if you’re in trouble in the water

If you do find yourself caught in a strong current or a rip, do not try and swim against it; stay calm and raise your hand in the air for help. Lifeguards who patrol beaches will see you and help you. This advice also applies if you are just struggling to swim and need some help.

While you’re waiting, you should conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until help arrives.

Be UV aware

Australia’s ultraviolet (UV) levels are among the highest in the world - in fact, the UV radiation in Australia is strong enough to cause sunburn in just 10 minutes. Each time your unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation, it damages the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.

The UV Index is an international standard scale which measures the intensity of the sun’s UV and tells you when it is safe to be out in the sun unprotected. Sun protection is generally not needed when the UV Index is under 3. Remember, even when it’s cloudy, the UV Index can still be high.

Slip, slop, slap, slide, seek

These simple methods are the best way for you to protect your skin from harmful UV and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

  • SLIP on some clothing – Wear clothes that cover your skin as much as possible.
  • SLOP on sunscreen – Slop on SPF30 or higher sunscreen. Make sure it is broad-spectrum, water-resistant and that you re-apply regularly.
  • SLAP on a hat – Choose a hat with a brim to provide protection for your face, back of the neck, eyes and ears. Caps and visors do not keep enough sun off your head.
  • SLIDE on some sunglasses – Always wear sunglasses that meet the Australian standard.
  • SEEK some shade – Aim to seek shade whenever the UV index is 3 or higher. If you can’t stay in the shade, make sure your skin is protected in other ways.


We understand that some people are anxious about swimming in the ocean because of sharks. While shark attacks are rare, here are some tips to reduce the risk of encountering sharks:

  • Follow and check the SLSWA Twitter, SharkSmart website or news for alerts and activity prior to entering the water.
  • Swim close to shore and between the flags at patrolled beaches.
  • Avoid aquatic activity at dusk and dawn.
  • Be sure to swim, dive or surf with others.
  • Avoid areas where there are large schools of fish, dolphins, seals, sea lions or birds.
  • Avoid areas where waste enters the water.
  • Avoid deep channels or areas with deep drop-offs nearby.
  • Do not remain in the water with bleeding wounds.
  • Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or jetty.
  • If you see a shark, leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible – avoid excessive splashing or noise.

Come prepared

In addition to your bathers and towel, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and other sun protection (hats, sunglasses, shade, clothing). If you’re not a strong swimmer, we also recommend bringing a floatation device, such as a boogie board or pool noodle.

More information about beach safety can be found on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia website.

What is your favourite beach around Perth, or further afield around Western Australia? Tell us on social media (@studyperth) and include our hashtag #livelearnlaunch.

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