The Illawarra has recorded the third highest death toll during the past surf season with five drownings.
The number of drownings increased from one the previous year to five in 2019/20, despite bushfires causing low attendance at beach and COVID-19 putting an early end to the patrol season.
There were three boating deaths including a 28-year-old man and a five-year-old boy who died on the June long weekend off Bulli Point.
A 58-year-old man died after the boat he was in with his nephew capsized in waters off Port Kembla in April.
A rock fisherman's body was not recovered after an extensive search at Port Kembla in August.
A 28-year-old man also drowned after he went for a late night swim in extremely hazardous surf conditions at North Beach in February.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra duty officer Anthony Turner said the deaths were "tragic" for the friends and family of the deceased people as well as emergency service personnel who assisted in the rescue operations.
He said all the drownings occurred outside of patrol hours or at unpatrolled locations, and none off the people were wearing personal flotation devices.
"This highlights the importance of taking water safety seriously when visiting beaches," Mr Turner said.
"The ocean can be dynamic and change quickly. However, the risks can be minimised.
"People have to play their part to keep themselves safe when in and near the water. They need to have safety gear and listen to warnings."
Mr Turner said it was paramount for people to know their limitation while swimming, fishing or boating.
They should check and stay up-to-date on the weather and surf conditions.
Rock fisherman should always wear a life jacket, fish with a friend and wear the correct footwear and clothing.
Boaters should also log their journey with Marine Rescue, wear lifejackets and have working safety equipment.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra volunteers performed 136 rescues, administered 315 first aids treatments and prevented 4010 incidents during the surf season.
Mr Turner said the number of rescues were significantly lower in the past year, likely due to low attendance at Illawarra beaches.
"We did not see the crowds as usual on our beaches probably due to the bushfires as people were not holidaying or visiting the region," he said.
Mr Turner said it had been a "diverse year" for many volunteers.
During the South Coast bushfire, two Illawarra crews with rescue craft were also deployed to Sussex Inlet to assist with evacuations and to bring food and water to people stranded in towns.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.