Drowning prevention

We are now engaging people at the beach to help beachgoers learn beach safety skills from lifeguards.

Overview of the current project

After successfully completing a pilot project in Gerroa, NSW that involved speaking with beachgoers about their experiences of risk, the Community Engagement for Disaster Risk Reduction (CEDRR) team has developed a new method of engaging beachgoers for drowning prevention. This new method of engagement aims to build relationships between beachgoers and lifeguards through lifeguards’ delivery of skill development sessions on the beach.


Given the recent drowning crisis, there is a need for new ways to support people to learn about rip current risk. This case study evaluates what beachgoers learned from participating in skill development sessions delivered by lifeguards and risk researchers at a patrolled beach in Lorne, Victoria, Australia.

Activities and methods

Twelve skill development sessions were delivered by teams of lifeguards and risk researchers to beachgoers. Sessions were co-designed by the research team and shared with lifeguards to include their interpretations of localised risk during lesson delivery.

Research Findings

  • Hearing directly from lifeguards helped parents discuss beach safety with their children.
  • Most participants (93%) enjoyed participating in the session(s).
  • Most participants (91%) reported learning something new.
  • Learning how to identify and escape a rip current were the two most commonly learned skills from lifeguards.
  • Participants’ intended changes in beachgoing behaviors include attempting to identify a rip current before entering the water.
  • Participants often shared what had learned with family and friends.

Next steps

We are currently analysing follow-up interviews from 44 participants in the skill development session to explore whether they used the skills they learned to reduce their risk of drowning and whether their skills diffuse throughout their social networks (i.e., spillover effects).

Research Outputs

Cook, B., Kamstra, P., Calverley, H., & Hooper, B. (2023). Rip guides: can beach safety lessons from lifeguards help prevent drownings in Australia? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/11/rip-guides-can-beach-safety-lessons-from-lifeguards-help-prevent-drownings-in-australia

Kamstra, P., Cook, B.R., Lawes, J.C. and Calverley, H., 2023. Engaging beachgoers for drowning prevention: the spillover effects on non-participants. Environmental hazards, pp.1-19.

Kamstra, P., Cook, B.R., Brander, R.W., Lawes, J.C., Matthews, B., Calverley, H., Imperiale, A.J. and Hooper, B., 2022. Awareness without learning: A preliminary study exploring the effects of beachgoer's experiences on risk taking behaviours. Heliyon8(12).

Kamstra, P., Cook, B.R., Brander, R., Lawes, J.C., Calverley, H., Strugnell, G., Kiss, B., Bond, J. and Daw, S., 2023. Evaluating the impact of skill development for drowning prevention: a relationship-building approach to community engagement. Injury prevention.