Published on 02/12/2021

University of NSW scientists will be assessing the role surfers play in rescuing swimmers in distress as well as their broader contribution to society in a world-first, global survey.

UNSW Sydney’s Professor Rob Brander – aka Dr Rip – published a study in 2015 that sought to assess the contribution of surfers Australia-wide in helping rescue swimmers in distress. But now he and his colleagues are about to go a step further by kicking off a new study that will attempt to quantify not only the number of surfers who carry out these good Samaritan acts in Australia but worldwide.

UNSW’s Beach Safety Research Group (BSRG) are tapping into a growing consciousness of surfer rescue and safety that is recognised by surfing organisations like Surfing NSW, which runs the free Surfer Rescue 24/7 course to educate boardriders about best-practice surf rescue and CPR skills.

Surfing NSW’s Matt Lawson is hopeful the group’s partnership with UNSW scientists in launching the survey will lead to new insights about the interaction between surfers, society and the environment.

“We know surfers are in the water 365 days a year from dawn though to dusk and are most often the first to assist in an emergency situation,” Mr Lawson says.

“Most surfers have spent their lives in the ocean and we believe that the majority of all surfers worldwide have been involved in a lifesaving rescue. With an estimated 35 million surfers worldwide that’s a lot of lives being saved through surfing.”

As part of the observational study that is being launched today, surfers around the world keen to participate will be asked to complete a 15-20 minute survey that will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

The Global Surfer Survey will also cover topics beyond beach rescues to find out more about surfers, their opinions on a range of environmental issues and the important role they play in society.

Other areas that the scientists hope to gain more insight into are surfers’ perspectives on climate and environmental issues including sharks, water quality and coastal management.

Prof. Brander is hoping that once all the data is collected and analysed, the researchers will be able to put a number on the economic benefits of bystander rescues performed by surfers, as well as the attitudes and opinions of surfers on issues such as climate change, sharks and water pollution.

The BSRG is aiming to release an update of its survey results in mid-2022, but the study will be ongoing.

The 15 minutes anonymous survey is all about understanding who surfers are and the role surfers play in saving lives.

All respondents to the survey go into a draw to win a custom-made surfboard valued at $1000.

All Surfers Rescue 24/7 courses are available at

Link to the survey is below:

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