SURF lifesavers have issued a strong warning ahead of the summer patrol season: swim between the flags.
From today, beaches across Victoria will be patrolled by the volunteers in red and yellow.
Warrnambool Surf Lifesaving Club Captain John McNeil said no matter where you go to escape the heat, never do it alone.
"Never swim alone, that's our big motto, it doesn't matter if its in a pool, river, creek, lake or the ocean, always make sure there's someone watching you.
"People need to be vigilant before they enter the water.
"You never know what can go wrong."
He said the city's lifesavers were gearing up for a bumper summer season.
They will patrol most Saturdays from 12pm - 5:30pm, Sundays from 9:30am to 5:30pm as well as on public holidays through to Easter.
"Warrnambool continues to swell, I think last year we saw up to 5000 campers over the holiday period," he said.
Nippers will start on Sunday at 9.30am, with the Lifesaving Victoria Junior Championships taking place in Warrnambool during the long weekend in March.
"It will be a big season for Warrnambool," McNeil said.
Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club President Scott McKenzie said swimmers need to be smart when it comes to the south-west's rugged coastal conditions.
"If we can't see you we can't save you, you must swim between the flags," he said.
"The safest beaches are ones that are patrolled.
"It does need to be reiterated at the start of every summer to remind people to swim at patrolled beaches, and look out for signage around other beaches that might indicate it's not so safe to swim there."
Port Fairy Captain Shaun Murrihy said the Surf Lifesaving Club was in the process of training around 50 new recruits.
"We've got something around 80 patrolling members split into five groups, it's a big commitment from the volunteers," he said.
"The obvious message is to swim between the flags where we have many sets of eyes watching.
"In Port Fairy over the summer a lot of people head up from the Gardens Caravan Park straight up to the beach and straight into the water not where the flags are. While it's a pretty safe beach, in front of the surf club is the best place to go."
He said the ocean can be unpredictable and urged swimmers to take care.
"People can be a bit blasé and go straight in. You've got to admire the sea, but you can't underestimate it at any time," he said.
"We counted nearly 600 people spread over half a kilometre of beach last year, it's pretty big numbers.
"We've also got record numbers of Nippers this year too."
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