Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 21, 2014

Between the flags

You may recognise the Australian flag. Here it is flying over Main Beach.


There are also thousands of red and yellow flags that flutter in the seabreeze on Australian beaches all over Australia…put there by our volunteer lifesavers.


The voluntary surf lifesaver movement originated in Australia in 1907 after drownings at local beaches in Sydney.  The rather quaint name, New South Wales Surf Bathing Association, was the service’s first name. Now the association is known as Surf Life Saving Australia. There are 350 surf lifesaving clubs patrolling over 400 beaches in Australia.

Here are a couple of lifesaver photos for you to enjoy.



In order to become a surf lifesaver a person must hold a Bronze Medallion or a Surf Rescue Certificate and pass an annual proficiency test. Every weekend there are people in training to become lifesavers…men and women…40% of lifesavers are female.







There is lots of interest in becoming a lifesaver with children as young as 7 joining clubs as Nippers. There are around 40,000 junior lifesavers in training right now. The aim of the junior program is to give children surf awareness and I’m sure lots of them go on to become fully fledged lifesavers when they grow up.

As well as their regular training, lifesavers compete in competitions throughout the year to hone their skills. Every year lifesavers from Australia, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the UK come to the Gold Coast for the 4 day Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.

Look for the flags on the beach and remember…swim between the red and yellow flags…they are there for your protection.  The lifesavers take care to put them in the safest part of the beach. Those not familiar with surf conditions won’t be able to identify dangerous rips that  can carry a swimmer out to sea in minutes. Lifesavers can’t watch entire beaches, so if you are between the flags they have more chance of seeing swimmers who get into trouble.

Lifesavers volunteer their time to help others have a great day at the beach.


Lifesavers keep watch from these cute little outlook posts, meaning they can be around in all types of weather.


My uncle, Allan Kolkka, was involved in the lifesaving world for most of his life. He was a founding member of Northcliffe Surf Lifesaving Club and was awarded an Order  of Australia Medal for his services to lifesaving in 1999. His 3 sons carry on the tradition…and their children.

Click here to see more on Allan Kolkka.


  1. Some racy shots! How I miss Australian beaches! In Italy have you seen how in many beaches people occupy the same deckchairs for decades.. I’ve always thought this was crazy. There’s a totally different atmosphere!

    • All Australian beaches are free for everyone. People would be outraged here if we had to pay to go to the beach and sit in a deckchair.
      I must admit though it is fun to sit in the shade of an umbrella and have someone bring you drinks.

  2. And the best beach in the world…. x

    • Main Beach is my favourite beach in the world, but I am biased, it is where I grew up.

  3. It’s wonderful to know there are people who look after you.

    • It is a wonderful volunteer organisation. We are very lucky.

  4. Oh, to be at a beach with sunshine right now….still dealing with the aftereffect of snow here…. *sighs*

    • Snow is fun for a short while, but I never get tired of the beach.

  5. Nothing like the Australian beaches! The best in the world!

    • I love our beaches. We have gorgeous white sand and sparkling clean water…perfect.

  6. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Australia……and now even more….beautiful beaches….so wide open…..looks like such a feeling of freedom!

    • Our beaches are beautiful. I love coming home to the surf.

  7. I don’t think we have any similar program in the US, though my mother and sister were both paid life guards when they were young. But, gosh, what a gorgeous beach. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • The volunteer lifesaver program is excellent, and seems to be no shortage of people who want to do it.

  8. Great write up! They deserve so much praise for what is a largely thankless task.

    • I think the volunteers have a great time at the clubs. My brother did it for a while and he enjoyed it.

  9. australian beaches are amazing. Western Australian beaches would have to be some of the best in the world. It really amazed me when i went down to the beach in the French Riviera and had to pay to sit on the cobble stone beach. How come that beach is so famous? Just the local beach down the road from home has beautiful white sand and crystal clear water and it is free!

    The Surf Life Savers here WA are great and I take my hat off to them! they save 100’s of lives each year and protect us all. The beach is a part of Australian culture and so are the great Life Savers!

    • Our beaches would not be the same without them.

  10. I’m very impressed by these lifeguards. What a huge responsibility. Are there many problems with sharks swimming in close?

    • There are shark nets behind the beaches on the Gold Coast. This is controversial, because it can cause a slow painful death for anything caught in the nets. There are few shark attacks on the patrolled beaches. Helicopters also keep a lookout for sharks, warning surfers to get out of the water.

  11. They have such an important job! So many people go to the beach every day here-imagine all the people they have helped!

    • It is a great service.

  12. Looks like you had fun Baywatch-ing the Australian style. 😆

    • There is always something interesting to see on the beach.

  13. Great pics, Debra. Thanks for the nice views. 🙂

  14. They are a pretty unique organisation aren’t they. It’s great that so many little kids get involved from such a young age. Surf experience is so important if you are a coastal Aussie dweller.

  15. Great photos of our Aussie Lifeguards, they do such a wonderful job keeping our beaches safe. So important to swim between the flags especially if you’re not used to swimming in the surf.

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