Summer coast swims claim 49 lives in Aust

Rebecca Gredley
AAP

Australians are being reminded to swim between the flags as new figures show 49 people died on our coasts over summer.

The national summer drowning toll for December to February was 20 per cent worse this year compared to the 2016-17 summer when 41 people drowned.

Around 76 per cent of this summer's drownings were men, while NSW had the most deaths overall with 20 coastal drownings, figures from Surf Life Saving Australia released on Friday showed.

The organisation's national coastal risk and safety manager, Shane Daw, said Victoria saw a significant increase in drownings with 12 fatalities this summer.

The number of people who drowned while swimming or wading almost doubled from the previous year, accounting for nearly half of all coastal drownings.

Fourteen per cent of drownings were in boating accidents while eight per cent were due to snorkelling incidents. Six per cent occurred when people were rock fishing.

Five children drowned this summer on the coast.

Mr Daw said parents should supervise their children at all times while at the beach because they can drown in 20 seconds.

"People think they will hear splashing and screaming but it doesn't happen that way," he said.

"It's a very silent occurrence."

Swimmers should look out for patrolled beaches and learn how to read rip currents, which Mr Daw said people can do at beachsafe.org.au.

"You wouldn't cross the road without looking both ways," he says.

"When you're going to the beach just stop and look - is it patrolled? If it isn't, understand where you're swimming, understand your limitations, don't put yourself in harm's way."

COASTAL AND OCEAN DROWNING DEATHS IN AUSTRALIA SUMMER 2017/18:

* NSW - 20

* NT - 0

* QLD - 2

* SA - 5

* TAS - 2

* VIC - 12

* WA - 8

* Swimming/wading - 49 per cent

* Boating - 14 per cent

* At the beach - 57 per cent

* Rip current related - 27 per cent