GrogWatch - Alcohol and watersports don't mix

Alcohol and water sports don’t mix

The weather is heating up and our thoughts are turning to long summer days by the beach, lake or river – or perhaps, lazing by the pool with friends. We all know that we need to slip, slop and slap, but UV rays aren’t the only danger to be aware of when we’re relaxing in the water.

Alcohol and water sports can be a deadly combination, affecting the functioning of the inner ear, body temperature regulation and vocal cords with devastating results (1) – in fact, the Royal Lifesaving Society Australia lists the consumption of drugs and alcohol amongst their top risk factors for drowning (2).

In Victoria, in 2011-12, 27% of drowning deaths involved alcohol (3). Australian national statistics showed that anyone drinking in, on, or around the water put themselves at a significantly higher risk of drowning (2) and the risk increases the more you drink.

A 9-year analysis of drowning in children and adolescents in Australia found that 20% of all drownings in the 15-19 year age group were significantly linked to alcohol (4). It’s not just young people–55-64 year old drinkers were also a high risk group (2).

If you operate a jet ski or boat in Victoria you’ll need to be particularly careful this year. In the same way that police conduct roadside testing for alcohol and illegal drugs, they now have the authority to conduct tests out on the water. If necessary they will detain you and escort you back to shore. If you’re under 21 you will need to maintain a zero blood alcohol reading.

So this summer, make sure your friends and loved ones are aware of the risks. While you’re cooling off by the water, pass up the icy beers and alcopops. Instead, quench your thirst with non-alcoholic drinks like soda water with a twist of lime – or if you prefer something a bit fancy, lime and ginger fizz – they’re not only better for keeping you hydrated, but will give you the best chance of a safe and happy holiday.

Find out more:

Read about Royal Life Saving Western Australia’s ‘Don’t Drink and Drown‘ campaign

Find out more about the effects of alcohol.

Get the facts about roadside drug testing.

Read the Royal Life Saving New South Wales report, Swim safe. Swim sober.

Find more information about alcohol on ADIN


1. Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, “Alcohol and water safety”, fact sheet 12

2. Royal Lifesaving Society – Australia 2012 National Drowning Report 2012

3. The Hon Peter Ryan MP, “Drowning statistics spark alcohol warning”, [Media Release], 27 November 2012 

4. The forgotten 50%: Analysis of drowning in children aged 15-19 years in Australia