‘Baby life savers’ ready for the beach

It’s Saturday morning at Adelaide’s Semaphore beach and 30 new classmates are in their first lesson with Surf Life Saving South Australia.

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Some of the group can’t yet walk.

Others aren’t quite old enough to know sand isn’t a snack.

But they’re not, according to Surf Life Saving Chief Executive Clare Harris, too young to learn the basics of beach safety.

“We’ve got qualified instructors that are here on the beach that are teaching the kids those water safety skills, [and] also the parents,” she said.

Surf Babies and Little lifesavers aim to give even the youngest beachgoers a safe introduction to the ocean.

The two new pilot programs are designed for children from six months to four years old.

Older children will learn more specific skills, such as what to do in an emergency, and to tread carefully around wildlife.

Belinda Schiphorst enrolled her eight-month old daughter, anticipating the youngster will spend a lot of her life around water.

“There are risks, and that’s part of the education,” she said.

“You need to know what they are, and how to deal with them.”

It’s a strong message of safety that comes less than two weeks after a beachside tragedy, where two 11-year-old boys drowned off an Adelaide beach.

Last summer, 89 people drowned in Australian waters.

Ms Harris said all beachgoers should be aware of the risks and understand how to stay safe in the water.

“We keep delivering that message, and we really need people to hear that message, and that is for people to swim at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags.”