First of all, recreational swimmers should not be swimming where surfers are. That's why there are red and yellow flags set up to mark out a safe, supervised area for swimmers.
While the management of Phuket's lifeguards could definitely be improved, the main reasons why people get themselves into trouble are that they're not educated about the dangers, they're not following the lifeguards' instructions, or they're not competent swimmers. These are all more reasons to swim between the flags.
It's easy to lose sight of a swimmer, especially if they have found themselves sucked out in a rip current.
In many cases the best person to help them out will be a surfer, as they're already in the water. Surfers are always looking around for the next wave and watching everything going on in the water.
If you find yourself in trouble in the water, remember these things:
Don't panic! relax and let the ocean take you with it, might seem crazy but you can't fight the ocean. Many people end up drowning because they have no energy left to stay afloat.
'Raise your arm' high out of the water and wave from side to side – the signal that you need help. If surfers are in the water they can quickly paddle over to you and help you with their board to shore.
Surfers understand the ocean just as well as many lifeguards and can be more help than you think.
Tim's Tip: Always check with lifeguards before going swimming and listen to their advice.
Surf's up Phuket!