banner image
Lifeguards and surf safety

Our Chief Lifeguard has been keeping swimmers safe on our beaches since 1973. Learn more about Warren Young, his team, and how to stay safe on our beaches.

National Relay Service for the hearing impaired Language translation services

Lifeguards and surf safety

Lifeguard leaning over on a jet ski Click to enlarge

Our lifeguards are legends, working hard to keep you safe year round. We employ the largest professional lifeguard service in Australia.

You’ll see their friendly faces on a beach or keeping a close eye on the water from one of our iconic yellow lifeguard towers.

Beach safety

Always swim between the red and yellow flag on patrolled beaches.

Understand what the flags and safety signs mean before entering the water. For beach safety information in other languages visit Surf Life Saving Queensland's online library of downloadable international language fact sheets.

Red & yellow flag (Safety)

Swim between the red and yellow flags.

Red flags (Danger)

Dangerous conditions. Do not enter the water.

Surfboard riding only

Surfboards only. No swimmers.

Yellow flag (Caution)

Swim with caution.

Swimming prohibited


The decisions you make will help you to stay safe in the surf:

  • Never swim alone or surf at beaches not patrolled by lifeguards or lifesavers.
  • Never swim outside the red and yellow flags that mark safe swimming areas.
  • Never swim directly after a meal or under the influence of alcohol.
  • Never swim when the beach is closed, marked with 'Danger - Reserve closed to bathing' sign and a red flag. Beach closure information can be found on our Media Centre.
  • Never swim when there are no safety flags.
  • Never panic if caught in a current or undertow but raise one arm straight up and float until help arrives.
  • Never struggle if you get a cramp but raise one arm for help, float and keep the affected part of the body still.
  • Never go out far when a yellow flag is flying - it means the surf is dangerous.
  • Never swim if you're unsure of safe conditions and seek advice from the nearest lifeguard.
  • Never struggle against a rip or current but swim diagonally across it.

Beach Safety education program

Our lifeguard service facilitates a Beach Safety Education Program for local primary schools and English language students. For more information contact our lifeguards team on 07 5581 6740.

Patrolled beaches

Find beach patrol times and locations of our lifeguard patrol towers under the 'Beach safety' subheading on the Gold Coast beach page you're interested in:

Alternatively, you can download our summary beach patrol information sheet.

Note: all beaches are patrolled during Queensland school holidays.

Beach closures

For beach closure information visit our Media Centre.

Surf etiquette

Surfers at Kirra during Cyclone Oma in 2019 Click to enlarge

Scoring waves should be fun! Like any sport, there are rules that surfers need to abide by to ensure they are safe and everyone gets a ride.

Common sense and kindness go a long way, particularly in a lineup, but you should also familiarise yourself with accepted local surf etiquette before paddling out.

Surf to your ability

  • Take lessons! It’s not as easy as the pros make it look.
  • Do not push learners into the path of an oncoming surfer.
  • As a guide:
    • Learners - up to waist height, white water and spilling waves.
    • Intermediate - waist to shoulder height, spilling waves.
    • Advanced - shoulder to overhead, hollow/dumping waves.

Priority

  • If multiple surfers are paddling for the same wave, the surfer closest to the breaking wave has right of way.
  • Don’t drop in! If a surfer is already riding the wave, they have priority.
  • Do not paddle around or inside a surfer who is waiting in line for the next wave.
  • Do not turn and catch a wave on the inside of a surfer already riding or paddling onto a wave.

Paddling out

Stay wide or if stay inside if in the white water.

Communicate

Which way are you going? Left or right?

Leg ropes

  • Wear one! A loose board can be lethal.
  • Don’t let go of your board!

Other craft (Stand up paddleboards, hydrofoils, windsurfers etc.)

  • Be careful around others, they may not know how your craft operates.
  • Surf within your ability.
  • Do not learn near other surfers, even if you know how to surf another craft.

Relax and enjoy the water!

The stats

Lifeguard riding a jet ski Click to enlarge

Our lifeguards are innovative and progressive. They have been world leaders in the development of rescue boards and wave runner jet skis.

We were also the first lifeguard service in Australia to adopt a formal surveillance tower plan along the coastal strip in 1989.

 

On the Gold Coast we have:

  • 52 kilometres of beaches
  • 26 beaches patrolled year round
  • 42 beaches patrolled during school holidays
  • 39 specially designed surveillance towers
  • 37 permanent lifeguards
  • 140 seasonal staff
  • 30 four wheel drive vehicles
  • 12 jet skis
  • 12 quad bikes.

What does it take to be a lifeguard?

Lifeguards running towards the ocean Click to enlarge

Think you have what it takes to patrol our beaches? We pioneered a gruelling bi-annual fitness test to ensure all our lifeguards are in top shape to carry out their work duties. Taking place between Greenmount and Kirra, lifeguards complete a 750 metre ocean swim, 1600 metre beach run, and 800-metre paddle on a rescue board, all in less than 26 minutes.

Download our fact sheet for more information on the prerequisites for becoming a City lifeguard.

Shark control

For the safety of swimmers, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries implements a shark control program along Gold Coast beaches patrolled by lifesavers or lifeguards.

Occasionally other marine life, such as whales, dolphins or turtles, gets caught in shark control equipment.

If you come across entangled sea life or damaged equipment call the 24 hour emergency hotline: 1800 806 891.

For more information visit the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

Related information

Jump to key information

ADVERTISEMENT

Top of page Top of page