As bare flesh, bikinis and board shorts reappeared on Wollongong’s beaches at the weekend, the message from surf lifesavers was clear.
No flags, no swim.
It is an edict repeated every year, yet the message is never enough to prevent beach drownings.
Hundreds of families flocked to the city’s beaches at the weekend, celebrating the return of the red and yellow flags.
Illawarra Surf Life Saving duty officer Lachlan Pritchard urged swimmers to listen to instructions from surf lifesavers when in the water.
‘‘On some occasions people just ignore what we ask, but obviously we’re there to protect lives and make the beach as safe as possible,’’ he said.
Despite the crowds, he said there were no rescues yesterday.
He also warned swimmers not to enter the water alone and to avoid unpatrolled beaches and known danger spots like Puckeys Beach and Towradgi Point.
‘‘I suppose there were a few tragedies last season and hopefully we can stop that this year by getting some more education out there,’’ he said.
One such tragedy that is fresh in the minds of many was the death of an eight-year-old at Towradgi Point in January.
Royal Life Saving Australia recorded 284 drownings in 2011-12, including 55 at beaches.
North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club patrol captain Dave Meredith yesterday said clubs up and down the coast were expecting a busy summer.
"This would be probably the most-attended beach in Wollongong and we're anticipating with the opening of the [Bathers] Pavilion there will be increased visitation down here," he said.
He said promoting beach safety was especially important for groups unfamiliar with the dangers, including foreign students from the university.
"You can get flash rips, you can get permanent rips, you can get travelling rips and people who are inexperienced or unaware can be caught out," he said.
"Every year we see potential drowning situations and due to the skills which people have learnt through surf lifesaving many have been prevented."
He also reminded parents to always monitor their children at the beach, and said nipper programs could help children develop confidence and safety.
■ Three fishermen are still missing after their tinny overturned a week ago.