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Why are we asked to swim in between the red and yellow flags?

Most of our coastline is not patrolled, particularly outside of summer months, so you may not find a surf patrol and swimming flags at the beach you are attending. If this is the case, please read our other blogs to better understand what dangers to look for on our beaches, and understand that you are taking a risk.

The red and yellow swimming flags on Australian beaches are designed to indicate the safest place to swim at the beach, away from hazards. However this does not necessarily mean that the flagged area will not be affected by hazardous water. Sometimes the flagged areas are very small; this will be due to hazards adjacent to the swimming area.

The lifeguards will try to find a large sand bank, which will indicate where to put up the red and yellow flags each day.

To identify the sandbank, they will look the area where the waves are breaking evenly and parallel to the shore. At low tide particularly, the waves and whitewater will determine the sandbank. The sandy bottom will also be more prominent in this area. The whitewater should carry all the way to the beach, making it the safest area. If this is not the case, the lifeguards should look for the next best area - ensuring the flagged area is not close to any major rips. The flags should be moved during the day to cater for variations like tide, wind, rips and swell direction

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