Winter is Coming ~ Lifeguards are Going

Filed under Council, News, Sport & Recreation ~ by Press on  29 Apr 2019

Last patrols on region’s beaches as surf season comes to an end.

Professional beach lifeguards conducted their last patrols for the season at the weekend, leaving swimmers to rely on common sense and luck should they venture into the surf.

And rather than just luck, winter surfgoers should carefully follow guidelines listed at Port Stephens water recreation web page.

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie beaches were visited an estimated 2 million times during the season.

Lifeguards reported a combined 350 rescues, 4500 first aid incidents, and over 20,000 “preventative actions.”

Port Stephens statistics were not available at press, but could add 25% to the total for the three precincts’ 30 ocean beach venues.

Note, Nobbys, Bar, and Merewether Beaches are patrolled all year round.

Lake Macquarie

An estimated 950,000 people visited Lake Macquarie’s popular patrolled beaches in the first six months of the 2018-2019 beach season.

Beach Lifeguard Service Team Leader, Paul Stone, said the crew did an amazing job keeping beachgoers safe throughout the busy season.

This season our lifeguards performed 248 rescues, responded to 1,432 first aid incidents and undertook 5,803 preventative actions to ensure our community was safe on our beaches,” Mr Stone said.

We would like to thank beachgoers for being well-behaved and adhering to lifeguard instructions throughout the season, resulting in another successful season on the sand and in the water.”

Mr Stone reminded beachgoers to take caution and ensure their own safety in the water if visiting the beach during the off-season.

The beach is a great place to cool off on a hot day or to get some exercise in the surf, but people should never be complacent when it comes to water safety,” Mr Stone said.

We are experiencing warmer temperatures both in and out of the water, so it is timely to remind beachgoers to be aware that patrols have ended, and people should perhaps reconsider heading into the water or do so at their own risk.

Our Charlestown and West Wallsend swim centres remain open year-round for a quick dip or some laps.”

Council lifeguard patrols at Blacksmiths, Caves, Catherine Hill Bay and Redhead beaches will start again from the September/October school holidays later this year.

Statistics (29 September 2018 – 3 March 2019)

  • 943,576 attendance
  • 5,803 preventative actions
  • 1,432 first aid incidents
  • 248 rescues
  • 117 beach closures

City of Newcastle lifeguards saved more than 100 lives this surf season as soaring temperatures and dry conditions made for one of the busiest years on record, with more than 1.2 million people flocking to City beaches.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes praised the lifeguard team for their courage and skill in providing the rate-payer funded service that genuinely saves lives.

Our lifeguards saved more than 100 people in significant rescues this season and effected 15,000 preventative actions,” the Lord Mayor said.

Protecting tourists and beachgoers from the dangers of the sea is no easy feat, particularly when they’re keeping watch over 1.2 million visitors.

City Lifeguard Daniel Collins was called on to save a father and his two children stuck in a rip behind Merewether Baths

City Lifeguard Daniel Collins recalls an incident late last year when he and quick-thinking colleagues rescued a father and his two children from a rip behind Merewether Baths.

The lifeguard on duty at Merewether Baths raised the alarm to neighbouring beaches, and called for assistance, before entering the water with a rescue tube,” Mr Collins said.

I responded on a rescue board from Merewether together with Mel Thurlow from Dixon Park, and the jet ski was dispatched from Nobbys Beach to assist.

The quick thinking, communication and actions of all lifeguards involved ensured the three family members were returned to shore safely and reunited with their waiting mother and wife.”

City lifeguards administered 2,800 first aid procedures since September, including 80 major cases such as resuscitations, treatment of broken bones, and relieving the effects of marine stingers.

Aquatic Services Co-ordinator Donna McGovern, a former Olympic swimmer, said hotter dryer conditions than usual were behind the higher number of rescues and preventative actions.

The 2018/19 summer season was arguably the busiest season the Beach lifeguard service has experienced due to hot dry conditions and the increased activation of the coast due to the Bathers Way,” McGovern said.

Lifeguards are extremely proactive when it comes to taking preventative measures. This can include asking surfers to surf outside the flagged area to urging beach goers to swim between the red and yellow flags instead of near dangerous rips.”

When prevention fails, it can often take just split seconds for swimmers to find trouble and the same time for lifeguards to act.

Nobbys, Bar and Merewether Beaches are patrolled all year round. Dixon Park, Newcastle and Stockton offer seasonal services over 30 weeks, starting in the September school holidays.

While April marks the end of the summer patrol season, lifeguards’ community contributions don’t end.

During winter, they move from the beach to Newcastle schools to help deliver the Water Safety Education Program. More than 100,000 students aged five to 13 years have benefited from the 52-year-old Water Safety Education Program, which has just been nominated as a finalist for a Local Government Excellence Award in the Service Delivery Initiative category.

Rescue and treatment statistics from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons:

2017-18 2018-19
Attendance 1 million 1.2 million
Rescues 90 100
Preventative Actions 13,000 15,000
Minor first aid 2500 2800
Major first aid 75 80
Port Stephens

The council website page provides information about patrolled beaches in the shire, and use of the bay’s extensive waterways and rivers.

It offers advice for all winter water sports, but especially surfers at unpatrolled beaches:

  • The safest place to swim at the beach is between the red and yellow flags.
  • Mark a reference point on the shore, to avoid drifting.
  • Always read the Surf Conditions Board at the beach. Never swim where you see the ‘Dangerous current sign’.
  • If you think conditions are too rough for you, please don’t go in.
  • Always swim with a friend, never alone.
  • Swim parallel to and not away from the shore when you swim long distances.
  • Swim in well lit areas, so you can be seen if you get into trouble.
  • For your safety, leave the water immediately when requested by a lifeguard.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Always wear a hat, sunglasses, a shirt and sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of water.

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