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Surf Ed

The Lifeguards


Surf Life Saving is an organisation that saves and protects life on Australian beaches. However despite the efforts of our trained volunteer surf lifesavers, paid lifeguards and support operations, people continue to drown around our coastline each year. The aim of all lifesavers and lifeguards is to achieve zero drownings.

Watermen and Waterwomen
Boasting total mastery of all oceanic endeavours, the revered waterman can paddle, dive, windsurf, bodysurf, interpret complex weather data, and save people in distress. Learn more about the waterman culture that is so important to modern lifeguards in this Surfline article.

Volunteer Surf Lifesavers

The Surf Life Saving movement began in 1907 when volunteer lifesavers began to protect the lives of fellow beachgoers on Bondi Beach, by performing patrols and rescues.

Lifesaving has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, but some things have stayed the same. Check out this video about lifesavers from 1950, courtesy of the National Film Board.  

Since their humble beginnings, volunteer lifesavers have saved more than 600,000 lives.

Our trained surf lifesavers spend more than a 1.3 million hours a year patrolling our beaches, pools and coastlines. Together they rescue around 15,000 people, provide emergency care to 35,000 and give safety advice to more than 900,000 others. And that’s every year.

The red and yellow of our surf lifesavers has been etched into the hearts and minds of all Australians. They watch over you.

Next time you are at the beach, watch out for us. Find the red and yellow flags and always swim between them - remember if surf lifesavers can't see you, they can't save you.

Lifesavers wear easily identified red and yellow uniforms with SURF RESCUE clearly written on the front and back of the shirt.



Surf Life Saving is also one of the largest providers of paid lifeguards in the world. Through the Australian Lifeguard Service, surf life saving employ over 700 lifeguards at more than 250 locations across Australia. They deliver professional lifeguard services to local governments, land managers and resorts. Australian Lifeguard Service employees wear red and yellow uniforms with LIFEGUARD written clearly on the back and front of the shirt.

In Australia, there are also 15local councils which run their own professional ocean lifeguard service. These lifeguards wear a range of different colored uniforms including variations of white, blue, red and yellow.

What training do lifeguards undertake?

The foundation qualification for both volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards is the Surf Life Saving Australia Bronze Medallion,  formally called the Certificate II in Public Safety Aquatic Rescue.

The Bronze Medallion  trains people in surf awareness, communication, working in a team, first aid, resuscitation and rescue techniques. From this training, people can take on more advanced training in a range of topics across the field including radio communications, advanced first aid and resuscitation techniques, to powercraft operations and advanced rescue techniques.


What equipment do lifeguards use?

Lifeguards have a range of specialized equipment to reach people in distress as quickly as possible. Here’s a few things we use in different situations:

All Terrain Vehichles (ATVs) and 4 Wheel Drives (4WD) are vital tools to help lifesavers get where they need to be with their rescue equipment as quickly as possible. 


The rescue tube: A simple flotation device which can be dragged behind the lifesavers as they swim towards the patient. They provide additional buoyancy to the patient who can then be dragged back to shore, or assisted by a rescue board or rescue boat. 


The rescue board: A fast simple way of getting to people in the surf. Patients can be loaded onto a board and returned to shore, or simply hold on until a rescue boat or craft can assist.


The inflatable rescue boat (IRB): IRB’s have become workhorses for  lifeguards over the last 40 years. They are fast, agile and can rescue multiple patients in testing conditions.


Rescue Water Craft (RWC): Commonly known as jet-ski’s, RWCs offer many of the advantages of the IRB, but can be used by a single lifeguard.


Offshore and Jet Rescue Boards (ORBs and JRBs): Sometimes a larger vessel is required for rescues farther offshore or as part of large search and rescue operations. ORBs and JRBs provide the perfect platform  for these jobs.


Helicopters: When people are in trouble in remote or hard to access locations, sometimes assistance from the air is the only option. Surf Life Saving operates a network of rescue helicopters around the country which provide a crucial rescue service to people in need wherever they are, not only on the coast.


What should I do if I need help from a lifeguard?

If you are in the water and need help, you should raise your arm and wave it above your head. This is the universal signal for help.


Emergency Triple Zero.jpgIf you are on land and see someone who may need help in the water, or have any emergency, you should immediately call TRIPLE ZERO emergency. Emergency services including lifeguards will then respond as quickly as possible.


How do I become a volunteer lifesaver?

Simple, head down to your nearest club... walk in the door... and ask any of the members if you can join! You’ll start with your Bronze Medallion training, then hit the beach to join your patrol!

Or if you wanted to turn your passion into a full time job as a professional lifeguard, contact the Australian Lifeguard Service. 


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