Page last updated at 04:41 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 05:41 UK

Australian surfers to aid Japan

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Japan surfer Shuhei Kato competing in Asian Beach Games Oct 08, Bali, Indonesia
Japanese surfers compete in world class contests

Australian surf lifesavers have travelled to Japan to help reduce high rates of drowning deaths at beaches.

Hundreds of Japanese die every year in the surf, the result of excessive alcohol consumption, ignoring safety rules and swimming in dangerous areas.

Lifeguards from Queensland's Sunshine Coast have been invited to explain the secrets of the surf to the Japanese.

Australians have helped to set up surf lifesaving associations in Indonesia, Peru, South Africa and Taiwan.

They have also forged close ties with their counterparts in Japan.

Treacherous seas

Two lifesavers from the Queensland town of Maroochydore have travelled to Shimoda in central Japan to help train local volunteers.

Beau Farrell, a former champion board rider, is happy to share his knowledge.

"The main reason behind it was to help improve our sister club, Shimoda's, board paddling, swimming and ski paddling ability.

"It's mainly some minor, sort of, technical issues that we're helping ironing out and to get them performing at their best," he said.

The seas off Japan, like those off Australia, can be treacherous.

Hundreds of Japanese swimmers drown in the surf every year but there is a feeling that many fatalities could be prevented if life guards received more rigorous training and the public was more aware of the dangers.

Kenta Nakayama, the director of lifesaving at Shimoda's famous Yumigahama beach, says safety standards do need to improve.

"There are still many people who drown. Around this area five people died last week in the surf," he said.

"Among them were people swimming at beaches with no lifesavers. Lifesaving still isn't widespread in Japan, so we need to work harder here," he added.

Australia's surf lifesaving expertise is built on traditions that go back more than 130 years.

There are hundreds of clubs around the country where volunteers and professionals patrol vast areas of coastline from tropical Darwin in the Northern Territory to the island state of Tasmania.

In the last century they have recorded more than 400,000 rescues.

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