The Think Line – A Behaviour Change Safety Campaign to address rip current drowning

Dr Jaz Lawes1, Shane Daw1

1Surf Life Saving Australia, Sydney, New South Wales


Rip currents are the predominant swimming hazard on Australia’s beaches, contributing to an average of 21 drowning deaths each year. Surf Life Saving Australia ran a five-year coastal safety campaign to address rip-related drowning and develop beach safety skills. The initial phase included a broad campaign that stated facts about rip currents, debunked myths, and challenged swimmer perceptions and understanding. Focus groups were used to develop strategic direction, and anonymous online surveys monitor campaign impact annually. This phase revealed poor rip current identification skills, a lack of confidence in individual ability to escape a rip; and that people continue to swim outside of patrol flags. Over 4.2 million Australians reported to have been unintentionally caught in a rip current and 73% of rip-related drowning death victims could stand or touch the bottom when initially caught in the current. These evaluations were then used to guide development of the second phase of the safety campaign. The primary goal of Phase 2 was to influence swimmer behaviour at the beach by building on awareness levels from Phase 1. Phase 2 introduced a conceptual line to ask people think before entering the water: ‘The Think Line Campaign’. The concept encourages beachgoers to STOP, LOOK and PLAN before visiting the beach and entering the water. The campaign concluded this summer with preliminary results indicate that the campaign can alter perceptions, by increasing self-doubt and reflective practice, and ultimately change behaviours regarding rip currents.


Shane Daw is the General Manager – Coastal Safety at Surf Life Saving Australia and is responsible for developing and delivering national coastal safety strategic direction across all surf lifesaving activities. He manages coastal safety programs, lifesaving operations, research and emergency services.
Shane has over 25 years’ experience within surf lifesaving across research, operations, coastal risk management and strategy. His involvement varies acting as a key expert at coronial cases through to extensive experiences as a rescue practitioner, including 28 years in helicopter operations.
He has been involved in development programs and initiatives in Bali and Fiji all centred on drowning prevention including the development of programs, water safety plans and committees to address these issues and presented at local and international forums.