With the arrival of summer, Surf Life Saving WA is issuing a safety warning with coastal drowning deaths on the increase.

With the arrival of summer and rising temperatures likely to see more and more West Australians heading to the beach to cool off, Surf Life Saving WA is issuing a safety warning with coastal drowning deaths on the increase.

With the release today of their WA Coastal Safety Report 2023, it’s revealed that last year there were 36 lives lost along the West Australian coast, with 21 of these deaths attributed to drowning, a 24% increase on the previous year and a 17% increase on the 10-year average.

Surf Life Saving WA General Manager Lifesaving Chris Peck said these figures were a sobering reminder of the dangers that our beautiful coastline held.

“I wish the news were better, but unfortunately, we continue to see too many people losing their lives on our beaches,” he said.

“While no drowning deaths occurred between the red and yellow flags patrolled by our surf lifesavers, what is concerning is that of those deaths that occurred on beaches, more than 90% were over 1km from a life saving service.”

“What that’s telling us is that people are not swimming at locations where we have all of the safety systems that can help keep them safe,” he said.

“Three hundred and sixteen rescues last year, over 60,000 preventative actions at our patrolled locations by our hard-working volunteers will tell you that swimming at a patrolled location is the best chance you’ve got of being safe, having fun and going home with your family.”

Statistics show that in WA, drugs and alcohol are one of the leading contributors, accounting for one in four drowning deaths since 2013.

Amongst other outcomes, males continue to be overrepresented, accounting for 90% of drowning deaths last year and increasingly the older demographic of those in the 55+ age bracket, accounting for 58% of drowning deaths.

Surf Life Saving WA is urging beachgoers to heed the age-old messages of choosing a patrolled location and swimming between the red and yellow flags.

“None of the messaging is new”, said Mr Peck. “Find a location patrolled by our lifesavers, especially if you are not a regular beachgoer.”

“Remember that alcohol and drugs and swimming don’t mix, and keep an eye on your friends and family while at the beach.”

Surf Life Saving WA Lifesaving Services patrol at more than 55 locations along the West Australian coast. Beachgoers are being urged to seek out these locations.

In 2022/23, Surf Life Saving WA Lifesaving Services performed:

  • 135, 290+ patrol hours
  • 316 rescues
  • 60, 620+ preventative actions
  • 2, 170+ first aid treatments

The Western Australia Coastal Safety Report 2023 is a comprehensive summary and analysis of the research undertaken by Surf Life Saving Australia and Surf Life Saving Western Australia. It presents an evidence-based approach to participation, perceptions, surf lifesaving service delivery, coastal drowning deaths and other fatal coastal incidents. The full report can be downloaded here.

WA Coastal Safety Report 2023 insights include:

  • 21 drowning deaths occurred along the WA coast in 2022/23, a 24% increase on the previous year, and a 17% increase on the 10-year average.
  • Men continue to be over-represented, accounting for 90% of all drowning deaths in the past 12 months.
  • 58% of drowning deaths occurred in older adults (aged 55+ years).
  • 90% of drowning deaths happened more than 1 kilometre from a patrolled beach.