People need to plan ahead and think carefully before entering the water this summer, Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club captain David Owen says.
Mr Owen, who is also a Warrnambool city councillor, said more people had been hitting rivers and beaches as warmer weather arrived.
“The beach is getting busier, and patrols have started now,” Mr Owen said.
“The water is colder than last year – possibly because of all the rain causing more fresh water to flow into the ocean.”
He advised people to assess their strengths and weaknesses before getting into the water, swim between the flags, avoid swimming alone and not to drink alcohol and then swim.
Mr Owen also said people should seek advice from life savers because dangers such as rips and rapid changes in weather conditions were not always easy to identify.
This week is Water Safety Week, and the state government has pointed to a spike in drownings – particularly among people over 65.
There were 43 drowning deaths in Victoria from July 1 2015 to June 30 2016, which represents an increase of 10 per cent on the state’s 10-year average.
Life Saving Victoria’s latest drowning report showed there were 26 drowning deaths in Warrnambool and the south-west between 2005 and 2015, with people over the age of 24 more likely to drown.
Mr Owen said lower levels of energy and fitness could make older people more vulnerable in the water.
He said they should be aware of how strenuous swimming in the ocean and rivers could be and take other precautions.
“(People) have got to look after themselves,” the long-time lifesaver said.