Drunk schoolies at risk of drowning, warns chief lifesaver
IT'S a potentially fatal combination - gorgeous weather, dangerous surf, and a horde of schoolies desperate to let off steam.
Local surf lifesaving clubs are on high alert this weekend as a rare northerly swell continues to gouge its way into Byron Bay and coincides with a blast of summer weather.
Add hundreds of schoolies to the mix, and it can be a recipe for trouble.
Already on Wednesday this week lifesavers and lifeguards have attended three emergency call outs in Byron Bay, according to Far North Coast duty officer Chris Samuels.
At 9am Wednesday an inexperienced surfer had to be rescued off Wategos.
Then in the afternoon, again between Wategos and The Pass, a swimmer, and then later a surfer, also got themselves into trouble.
Mr Samuels said it was a timely reminder to swimmers - especially schoolies - to pay heed to the conditions.
"You've got a lot of young people who probably aren't really thinking about the beach conditions, you find those sort of people get in trouble a lot of quicker," he said.
"They're probably affected by alcohol and drugs as well, normally a pretty bad combination.
"It's not uncommon especially around schoolies time, and especially in the Byron area.
"You find they do take a few more risks, even swimming outside the lifeguarded hours on the Byron beach.
"The last thing on their mind is their ability and their strength in the water.
"We do urge everyone to just swim between the flags and don't swim when you are affected by drugs or alcohol."
Mr Samuels said while everyone was focused on shark bites, people were forgetting the fact that last season the Far North Coast suffered nine coastal drownings.
"The shark issue does seem to get a lot more media coverage, and I understand it is a significant evolving issue in our area," he said.
"But people still do need to remember the ocean can be quite dangerous, it can change very quickly.
"They need to take that account when they go down for a swim.
"You'll find rips and currents can be a lot more hidden."