Explorer Cara van Wyk is a Surf Lifesaver at Coalcliff Beach who knows a thing or two about rock platform safety. Here’s her tips on how to avoid the dangers whilst soaking up the vibes on coastal rock platforms.
With small rock pools, crystal clear reflections and waves crashing over rocky outcrops, coastal rock platforms are some of the most beautiful places to visit. Right around the Aussie coastline there are some real beauties to explore – just don’t get so drawn in by their awesomeness that you let your guard down.
Recently there’s been an increase in injuries – and fatalities – at rock platforms. Rocky areas are dangerous if you aren’t aware of (and managing) the risks involved.
There really is no mucking about when it comes to safety at coastal rock platforms but it can be a bit hard to know where to start. Here are a few tips to help out this summer:
# 1 Know The Area
Before you head off anywhere, know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. If you are walking to a location, double check how long the hike is and what terrain you’ll be going over to make sure you can handle it. Knowing how long the hike or drive takes also helps plan when to set off to reach the platforms at the best tide times (see tip #2).
Knowing exactly where you are is important should an emergency occur – take note of the nearest landmarks and road crossings as you go!
# 2 Check Tidal And Surf Information
It’s important to know what time high tide is and whether the tide is coming or going. Coastal rock platforms can be completely underwater at mid or high tide and may only be accessible at low tide. You could also be cut off from your walking track if the tide comes in while you are on the platforms.
Have a look at the height of the swell (the ocean wave system) and the height of the seas (the local wave system acting on top of the swell). On big swell days, or days when the seas are choppy, coastal rock platform areas could be submerged even at low tide or may be subjected to rogue waves. Go here for swell heights.
When heading to coastal rock platforms, aim to get there just before or at low tide and avoid days of high swell or rough seas. Once there, make sure you reassess for safety. Never turn away from the ocean – a surprise wave can get you at any time.
# 3 Check Weather Conditions
Consider the weather forecast before heading out. Windy days can increase the risk of stormy seas and sudden waves washing over the rocks. Coastal rock platforms can also be very slippery from local algae and rocks washed smooth over the years. Rainy days mean that there are few dry areas and traversing across rocky areas can be very dangerous.
Try to head out on mostly sunny days with little or no wind.
When it comes to the weather and the surf, you can never be too careful. If you’re unsure if it’s safe, recruit someone to show you the ropes – take a friend who knows what goes for what or ask locals in the area what they reckon on the day.
# 4 Take Everything You Will Need
Think about the area you are heading into and the weather. Use your common sense with packing for a coastal rock platform adventure and bring everything you will need (i.e. rug up, stock up on food and water, take that first aid kit you’re undecided on…)
If it is likely that you will have no reception, consider a Personal Locator Beacon.
If you’re going fishing off platforms wear a lifejacket (no two ways about it!)
Whatever you’re doing, wear sturdy shoes – thongs won’t cut it – as rocky areas can be slippery and sharp no matter the weather and tide.
# 5 Last But Not Least
Let a mate know where you are going, when you expect to be back and what to do if you aren’t.