Lifeguards ramp up skills for bumper beach season

Lake Macquarie City Council

Council beach lifeguards undertook training and testing to prepare them for the upcoming beach season.jpg

It’s like Baywatch at Blacksmiths Beach, but don’t expect any slow-motion sunset runs along the sand.

Instead, Lake Macquarie City Council’s beach lifeguards have been taking to their jet-skis, 4x4s and rescue boards as they prepare for another busy season along our coast.

Manager Leisure Services Brendan Callander said almost 40 casual lifeguards were put through their paces on Thursday to test their proficiency across a range of core lifeguard skills prior to the patrolled beach season kicking off on 23 September.

The training day included a swim test, beach rescues, vehicle operation, deployment of rescue equipment and communication.

This year’s training also featured a session with the Hunter Westpac Rescue Helicopter to help the two agencies work together during emergencies.

“Many of our casual lifeguards have been doing this for years and have a wealth of experience in their roles, but it’s very important to avoid complacency, maintain these skills and stay up to date on the latest industry practices,” Mr Callander said.

“The rescue helicopter training is particularly helpful, so our lifeguards know what to expect when one of their aircraft arrives overhead to an active job.”

“It’s about knowing how best to communicate with the air crew, and what to expect when their doctors and paramedics will do when they take over the scene.”

Lifeguard crews visited a record 83 primary and high schools across the city during this year’s off-season, reaching more than 15,000 local students with their first aid and surf safety training.

They also targeted seniors’ groups, and various community organisations, following a summer in which 90 people drowned in Australia.

While none of those drownings occurred on Lake Macquarie beaches, Beach Lifeguard Team Leader Lucas Samways said more than 40 per cent of Australian drowning deaths last summer happened on the beach.

“Almost a quarter of those who drowned were aged under 18, so it is vitally important we get those beach safety and awareness messages across to kids as early as possible,” he said.

Lake Mac lifeguards performed a total 104 rescues in the 2022-2023 patrolled beach season, which stretched from September to April.

They recorded 39 major incidents in which at least one person needed hospital care, and provided first aid to more than 920 people.

“We see a lot of bluebottle stings, cuts from surfboard fins and broken bones from people getting dumped by waves,” Mr Samways said.

An estimated 831,000 people visited Lake Mac’s patrolled beaches during the 2022-2023 beach season.

Redhead Beach proved the most popular by far, with 287,000 visitors, followed by Caves Beach with 197,000.

The patrolled beach season goes from 23 September to the 2024 April school holidays.

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