Safety & Rescue Services

Lifesavers and Lifeguards

Surf Life Saving Western Australia is an organisation that saves and protects life on West Australian beaches. Surf Life Saving WA services perform hundreds of rescues each summer season (October to April), as well as perform thousands of first aid treatments and prevent thousands more incidents occurring in the first place.

Despite the efforts of trained volunteer surf lifesavers, paid lifeguards and support operations teams, people continue to drown along the West Australian coastline each year, usually at non-patrolled beaches or at times when lifesavers and lifeguards are not on duty. The aim of all lifesavers and lifeguards is to achieve zero drownings.

Volunteer Surf Lifesavers

The Surf Life Saving movement in Australia originated in 1907 when volunteer lifesavers began to protect the lives of fellow beachgoers on New South Wales’ Bondi Beach, by performing patrols and rescues. In Western Australia, Surf Life Saving has its origins at Cottesloe beach, where the first WA Surf Life Saving Club was formed in 1909.

Lifesaving has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, with over 310 Surf Life Saving Clubs around Australia now in operation, including 29 in Western Australia.

Since these humble beginnings, volunteer lifesavers have saved more than 600,000 lives.

Trained West Australian volunteer surf lifesavers spend approximately 100,000 hours a year patrolling WA’s beaches and coastlines. Nationally, surf lifesavers rescue around 15,000 people, provide emergency care to 35,000 and give safety advice to more than 900,000 others. And that’s every year.

Next time you are at the beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim between them - remember if surf lifesavers can't see you, they can't save you.

Lifesavers wear easily identified red and yellow uniforms with SURF RESCUE clearly written on the front and back of the shirt.


Surf Life Saving is also one of the largest providers of paid lifeguards in the world. Through the Australian Lifeguard Service, Surf Life Saving employs over 700 lifeguards at more than 250 locations across Australia, including 17 beaches in Western Australia.

Australian Lifeguard Service employees wear red and yellow uniforms with LIFEGUARD written clearly on the back and front of the shirt.

In Australia, there are also 15 local councils which run their own professional ocean lifeguard service. These lifeguards wear a range of different coloured uniforms, including variations of blue, white, red and yellow.

For more information visit Australian Lifeguard Service

What training do lifeguards undertake?

The foundation qualification for both volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards is the Surf Life Saving Australia Bronze Medallion. The Bronze Medallion trains people in surf awareness, communication, working in a team, first aid, resuscitation and rescue techniques. From this training, people can take on more advanced training in a range of topics across the field including radio communications, advanced first aid and resuscitation techniques, to power-craft operations and advanced rescue techniques.

What equipment do lifeguards use?

Surf lifesavers and lifeguards have a range of specialised equipment to reach people in distress as quickly as possible.

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

Much like a quad bike, these vital tools to help lifesavers get where they need to be with their rescue equipment as quickly as possible.

The rescue tube

A simple flotation device which can be dragged behind the lifesavers as they swim towards the patient. They provide additional buoyancy to the patient who can then be dragged back to shore, or assisted by a rescue board or rescue boat.

The rescue board

A fast simple way of getting to people in the surf. Patients can be loaded onto a board and returned to shore, or simply hold on until a rescue boat or craft can assist.

The Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB)

IRB’s have become workhorses for lifesaver over the last 40 years. They are fast, agile and can rescue multiple patients in testing conditions.

Rescue Water Craft (RWC)

Commonly known as jet-ski’s, RWCs offer many of the advantages of the IRB, but can be used by a single lifesaver.


When people are in trouble in remote or hard to access locations, sometimes assistance from the air is the only option. Surf Life Saving operates a network of rescue helicopters around the country which provide a crucial rescue service to people in need wherever they are, not only on the coast.

What should I do if I need help from a lifeguard?

If you are in the water and need help, you should raise your arm and wave it above your head. This is the universal signal for help.

If you are on land and see someone who may need help in the water, or have any emergency, you should immediately call TRIPLE ZERO emergency. Emergency services including lifeguards will then respond as quickly as possible.

Our partners