Hats off to our lifeguards

The last day of summer saw a dramatic two-person rescue for Kiama Municipal Council Lifeguards at Surf Beach.

A man in his mid-40s, who was unable to swim, was rescued after straying away from the flags, getting out of his depth and being pulled into a rip.

Lifeguard-3Supervising Beach Lifeguard Andy Mole said he was sure the man would have died if lifeguards had not been on hand.

“Sometimes in your career as a lifeguard you are involved in rescues where you think the person would have been ok on their own,” Andy said.

“But then there are rescues you do where you think ‘if I had not got to that guy, he would have died’.

“This man was literally in chest-deep water but could not swim a stroke and had no education in the ocean whatsoever. He gave us a massive hug when he got out of the water.”

While attempting to get the man onto the rescue board, the experienced lifeguard was also sucked into the rip. He supported the man on the board until a second lifeguard reached the pair.

The incident highlighted an area of major concern for lifeguards.

“People who don’t have strong swimming abilities putting themselves at risk in conditions where they are not confident is always of concern to us,” Andy says. “And again we have an issue with people swimming out of patrolled areas.”

It was a very busy peak season for the Council lifeguards, which saw them conduct 72 rescues,152 instances of first aid, 2668 preventative actions and enforce beach and reserve regulations just over 1000 times.

Lifeguards had to call paramedics on seven occasions over the period for a range of injuries including spinal, broken bones and water immersion.

To extend the lifeguards’ reach, an emergency radio was installed in the sand dunes at the start of South Bombo last year in response to a large number of rescues at that unpatrolled beach.

“The emergency radio was used to rescue two surfers at South Bombo on a busy day during the January holidays,” Andy said.

“The radio is a valuable rescue tool and means that Lifeguards on patrol at North Bombo can be on the scene at South Bombo on 1.5 minutes.

“The  more people who know its there, the more valuable it will be in ensuring the safety of swimmers who persist in swimming at unpatrolled beaches.”

He stresses that the radio is only in use during the Council patrol season. Surf Beach is the only beach still currently under patrol during the week, with the season ending on 22 April. Local surf clubs patrol beaches on the weekends.

Over the winter months, Andy will be working on developing a shark detection airship project with fellow Kiama lifeguard and PhD student Kye Adams. A September or December school holiday launch date is anticipated. The project has received a $5000 State Government grant.

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