Hunter’s inviting swim spots mask hidden danger

ON WATCH: Lake Macquarie senior lifeguards Alex Marshall and Lucas Samways on patrol at Redhead beach as the mercury soars on Tuesday. Picture: Simone De PeakLIFEGUARDS have warned against “naivety” on Hunter beaches – including from parents who become distracted by their phones rather than watching their children.

It comes as authorities brace for another killer season on the coast, after five deaths in the past two weeks and another suspected drowning in Sydney on Tuesday.

Lake Macquarie head of lifeguards Paul Stone said recent hot weather, water conditions and risk-taking behaviour provided the perfect storm.

This appears to be reflected in a spike of rescues over the past fortnight, as an unusually high morning tide makes for strong rip currents in the afternoon.

“Come 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when a lot of people venture down to the beaches, therewill be deep holes along the water’s edge in remote locations,” Mr Stone said.

“They look really inviting for a place to swim, but the problem is they are the locations that are most treacherous.”

Crowds flock to Redhead beach on Tuesday. “The key message is don’t underestimate the ocean”. Picture: SImone De Peak

According to Royal Life Saving data, this summer’s official drowning toll stands at 15.

It was 22 at the same time last year.

Lake Macquarie head of lifeguards Paul Stone

Mr Stone said a particular concern was the increasing number of parents on their phones while their kids played in the water.

“We’re experiencing quite a few lost kids these days and I put that down to mum and dad playing on their phones,” he said. “Little kids on the beach, particularly when they’re playing on the water’s edge, can lose track of their parents pretty quickly.”

Mr Stone added: “I think we just get a bit naive. We really don’t promote that safety message until we’ve had a few drownings each year, and unfortunately we’ve already had some.

“The key message is don’t underestimate the ocean.

“Even though it looks really nice and inviting, it’s not necessarily safe, particularly if you’re not a strong swimmer.”

Surf Lifesaving NSW chief executive Steven Pearce urged the public to swim between the flags.

“The holidays are a great time to relax but it is also the time when families are away from home at unfamiliar beaches they may rarely or have never visited,” he said.

“Please talk to lifesavers and lifeguards who are there to help. If you are in any doubt about your own abilities or your ability to keep others safe, please don’t take the risk.”

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