Stay safe at the beach this summer with these top tips

Bondi Rescue star and Bondi Beach lifeguard 'Hoppo' shares his expert tips on how to stay safe (and read the flags right) at the beach this summer.

Bondi Rescue Star Bruce 'Hoppo' Hopkins
  • Kaitlyn Palmer-Allen
  • December 2019

Professional lifeguard and Bondi Rescue opens in new window star Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins gives us his top tips on how to best enjoy Australia’s beautiful beaches.

How did you become a surf lifesaver?

It was a while back but one of the lifeguards I knew suggested I should try out. I was doing a lot of ocean racing and decided that becoming a lifeguard would suit my training and lifestyle.

What did you do before you decided to become a lifeguard?

I worked at radio station 2GB for four years. I was on the team calling NRL football games with [former NRL players] Greg Hartley and Peter Peters. I’d also go to the matches and interview the players.

What do you love about working as a lifesaver at Bondi?

There’s a lot to love. I love the lifestyle and the amazing satisfaction when helping and saving people. And I get to meet so many people from all over the world.

Bondi Beach in Sydney
Bondi Beach is not only Australia's best known beach, it's famous around the world.

What is the most common mistake people make at the beach?

A lot of people don’t know what a rip looks like and they enter the water right where one is.

What does a rip look like?

Most rips sit in-between sandbanks, so it is quite easy to see the deeper water channels between the whitewater on the sandbanks. The water is darker in colour. Most rips have feeder currents that run off the sandbanks along the beach until they flow into the main channel. The waves will not be breaking in these areas.

What are your top beach safety tips?

  1. Always swim between the flags and only swim at patrolled beaches.
  2. If caught in a rip, float and stay calm. Go with the flow of the water.
  3. Take a flotation device to the beach, such as a bodyboard.

What do the flags mean?

Check local conditions and lifesaving services at beachsafe.org.au opens in new window. And if you’re ever unsure, ask a lifeguard for advice. Here are the most common surf lifesaving flags you’ll see at a patrolled beach in Australia.

A red flag on a beach
If you see a red flag at the beach, do not enter the water.

Red and yellow
Always swim between the red and yellow flags. These are the most important flags on the beach and indicate the supervised area. If there are no red and yellow flags, you should not go swimming.

Plain yellow
Proceed with caution. If water conditions are unstable or there are potential hazards, you’ll see a yellow flag. Also look for the diamond-shaped yellow warning signs for more information before you enter the water.

Red and white check
Evacuate the water immediately. If you see a red and white quartered flag, it means there is an emergency situation.

Black and white check
Do not surf between the flags. Black and white quartered flags are placed on either side of the red and yellow flags to indicate the surfcraft exclusion zone. If you are surfing, stay outside of the flagged swimming area.

Plain red
Do not enter the water. A red flag indicates the beach is closed.

Here’s where to find Australia’s best hidden beaches.