Don’t beach and booze this New Year

Friday 01 January, 2021

The Marshall Liberal Government, Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA), and South Australia Ambulance Service (SAAS) are calling on all beachgoers to run a tight ship in 2021 and prevent alcohol-related drownings.

Sunshine, shells, ice cream, kites and good times all mix at the beach – but alcohol and swimming do not.

Approximately 35,000 people visited patrolled beaches on Boxing Day, with even larger crowds expected at the state’s best – and most secluded – beaches over the New Year holiday period, prompting fresh warnings for all South Australians to exercise caution around the water.

There were 14 drownings in 2019/20 with 4 deaths occurring at coastal beaches. Last summer, eagle-eyed SLSSA volunteers made 149 rescues, many of which involved alcohol consumption. SLSSA statistics also show drownings are 2.4 times more likely to occur on a public holiday.

“South Australians love the water and it’s impossible to resist our stunning beaches on a hot summer’s day,” Emergency Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said.

“It is concerning our dedicated volunteers have already performed more than 30 lifesaving rescues this season as beach visitation numbers continue to soar.

“This is a huge wake-up call for South Australians - don’t be complacent in the water and never drink alcohol and swim. If you are struggling in the water, alcohol is the last thing that will save you.

“You wouldn’t consume alcohol and drive, so why take the same chance in the water. Drinking and swimming is a deadly cocktail not worth gambling on.”

SLSSA President John Baker said Aldinga Beach has recorded a surge in activity levels with approximately 200,000 visitors since the start of summer.

“Alcohol consumption impairs senses and encourages risk-taking,” Mr Baker said.

“We have warned in the past about the dangers of swimming at night and swimming in the surf after consuming alcohol, and this is not the time of year for complacency around water.

“The data shows that those people who have drowned after consuming alcohol are 4 times over the legal driving limit.

“At the end of day we just want everyone to have a fun time but also to be safe, for themselves and their families when visiting the beach so stay between the red and yellow flags when at the beach and don’t mix alcohol and swimming.”

SAAS Executive Director Rob Elliott said New Year’s Eve, carrying through to New Year’s Day, is one the busiest times of the year for paramedics, with Triple Zero hotline operators taking up to 1000 calls for emergency medical help.

“For many, the festive period means swimming, road trips, barbeques, and enjoying outdoors. While most of the time these activities are perfectly safe, when combined with excessive alcohol consumption they can be dangerous,” Mr Elliott said.

“We are urging South Australians to drink responsibly and celebrate safely. We will have additional crews on and ready to respond, but ultimately, we don’t want to see you in the back of an ambulance.”

SAAS data highlights a peak period for crews on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day between 10am and 8pm, with a small spike in emergency calls between 11pm and 2am.

For more information on how to stay safe when visiting the beach this summer, or find your nearest patrolled location, visit or download the BeachSafe APP.

For all the latest coastal drowning trends, visit the National Coastal Safety Report.