SURF lifesavers have performed a mass rescue of more than half a dozen swimmers at a beach in Surfers Paradise.
It’s understood the group needed help after they were swept up in a flash rip shortly after 3pm on Sunday.
Lifesavers say they were forced to pull seven beachgoers from the water in a dramatic, simultaneous rescue.
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Multiple ambulance crews were dispatched to the scene where paramedics assessed the rescued swimmers.
Of those pulled from the surf, four were given oxygen and taken to the Gold Coast University Hospital.
Queensland Ambulance said all four patients were transported in a stable condition.
A flash rip is considered to be the most dangerous type of rip current and, on average, claims almost 20 lives in Australia every year.
Griffith University researcher Tom Murray said flash rips appear suddenly without warning, have a short-lifespan and decay after a few minutes, with the average flash rip lasting around 83 seconds.
“This means they are really hard to research,” Mr Murray said. “They are very difficult to capture and study using traditional field equipment and methodologies.”
Tom said mass rescue events were often reported as being caused by a ‘collapsing sandbar’, which was not the case.
“Sandbars cannot and do not suddenly collapse,” Mr Murray said.
“Rescued swimmers often report feeling the sandbar just disappearing beneath their feet. When a swimmer suddenly becomes detached from the sandbar, a flash rip is usually the culprit.
“There may be no well-defined rip channels in the immediate area, however, groups of incoming breaking waves still lead to localised wave set-up shoreward of the breaking zone.
“As all that water travels back out to sea, the depth of the water suddenly increases simply lifting people off the sandbar. The sandbar didn’t collapse, they simply floated off it.
“Once they are floating in the rip they are taken out into deeper water. It can be very freighting especially for people not used to the ocean and waves.”
In March 2015, 18 swimmers were rescued at Burleigh after they were swept up in a rip in similar circumstances.
The large group had all reported feeling the sandbar they were standing on suddenly collapse beneath them.
Fortunately, all 18 swimmers were rescued and safely brought to shore.
Earlier on Sunday afternoon, a 46-year-old woman needed rescuing after she became caught in a rip at Kirra.
Surf Life Saving Queensland said the woman had been swimming outside the red and yellow flags at the time.
By 2pm on Sunday, more than 50,000 people had flocked to the state’s beaches to escape the heat.
Lifesavers have warned of further dangerous surf conditions along the Coast with this afternoon’s outgoing tide.
For more on Tom Murray’s research on flash rips, click here.