Surfers urged to train up to save lives

March 12, 2021 BY

Surfing Victoria is facilitating the Surfers Rescue 24/7 sessions during March and April. Photo: SURFING VICTORIA

FREE rescue training is being offered to local surfers in recognition of the vital role they play in saving lives.

Surfing Victoria has put out a call to boardriders clubs across the region to encourage their members to sign up for the Surfers Rescue 24/7 Program which shows surfers how to use their boards as rescue tools in an emergency.

The two-and-a-half hour course, being held at the Ocean Grove SLSC during March and April, also provides basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.

Two deaths on local beaches this summer were among the 20 drownings recorded across the state.

Surfing Victoria events and program manager Chad Butterworth said the situation was sadly highlighted by the drowning death of respected Geelong businessman, Peter Dostis, at Thirteenth Beach on the Australia Day long weekend.

Mr Butterworth said while Life Saving Victoria reported 179 swimmers were rescued by life savers across the region between December 1 and February 28, anecdotal evidence showed many more were saved by surfers.

“We know for a fact a number of rescues are made by surfers but they are just never reported,” he said.

“The whole reason the program was developed by Surfing NSW is because surfers are in the water from dawn to dusk and usually on unpatrolled beaches, which is where people tend to spread out to if it’s too crowded at patrolled beaches.”

Mr Butterworth said this meant surfers were usually the first responders and it was important they had the confidence to attempt a rescue without panicking.

“Over the recent summer we have had, we did have a number of people getting into trouble down at Thirteenth Beach and the boardriders club down there said ‘yep, we pulled a lot of people out of the water’,” he said.

“We thought it was vital to get in touch with them and say ‘hey, there is a program that can teach you guys how to deal with this situation’ because obviously they are not trained lifeguards, and we want to give them the peace of mind they know what to do in the event they do see someone get into serious trouble.”

Mr Butterworth said the aim was to get as many surfers and recreational water users trained as possible by giving them the practical knowledge and skills needed to deal with the different emergency situations that could unfold in an open water environment.

“We always reiterate that their own safety is the most paramount thing and to always look out for assistance and call out for help as often as you can, but also don’t be afraid to have a go – that’s our motto as well.

“Because if you are the only person within cooee of a person in trouble, you could save a life.”

The Surfers Rescue 24/7 program is conducted by Surfing Victoria in partnership with the Victorian Government.

Mr Butterworth said the program would also be offered to the general public, with dates to be released soon on the Surfing Victoria website and social media channels.

Local surfers wanting to sign up to the program should go to the Events page on and register for a course, with seven dates during March and April to choose from. An online version of the course is also available.

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