Roving lifeguard patrols for Rainbow Beach
ROVING lifeguard patrols from Inskip Point to Teewah are part of a campaign to save people from themselves when they swim outside the flags this summer.
But new Rainbow Beach lifeguard Liam Toohey warns it is a lot of ground to cover - and a lot of potentially tricky unpatrolled surf.
"It's hard for us to help when people are camped and they just get up in the morning and have a dip," he said.
"We'll patrol up there from Rainbow and another two lifeguards in a truck will patrol down to Double Island Point and Teewah.
"But if people get into trouble and they haven't told anyone who can call for help, it is really a matter of luck.
"This morning we had four young people in a rip, just outside the flags.
"We just paddled out and told them, 'That's why the flags are where they are'," he said.
He reported an already busy season with about 80 people still in the water after 3pm.
Beautiful weather and plenty of sand on the beach made for ideal holiday conditions.
Mr Toohey's remarks echoed concerns in e Surf Life Saving Australia's annual National Coastal Safety Report has revealed one in three fatalities in coastal waters was a swimmer who went into the water outside the red and yellow flags.
The alarming statistic is a timely reminder a week into the summer season to swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
The National Coastal Safety Report, which was launched in Sydney by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, provides concerning analysis of Australia's recreational coastal activity in 2014/15.
It reveals a worrying increase in drowning deaths - up from 83 the previous year to 102.
Swimmers and waders accounted for 34 of those fatalities.
They were all swimming or wading outside the red and yellow flags.
"To put that in perspective, 34 people were enjoying swimming in the magnificent ocean, but if they had stayed between the red and yellow flags they would very likely still be alive today,"
Surf Life Saving Australia president Graham Ford said.
"That number is so upsetting because we say it year after year, always swim between the red and yellow flags.
"If we can't see you, we can't save you.
"If you swim between the flags where you are being watched by a lifesaver, your chances of being rescued are high if you get into trouble.