Surf season has officially kicked off with ideal weather forecast for this long weekend.

Thousands of Surf Life Saving volunteers have returned to the beaches across NSW, with the Northern Beaches expected to see an influx of visitors to the beach this summer.

Surf Life Saving NSW formally launched the season with NSW Police and Emergency Service Minister David Elliott at Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club last Saturday.

“With a near-record 49 drownings in NSW last year and seven coastal fatalities since 01 July this year, the state’s Surf Lifesavers are on high alert,” Mr Elliott said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is forecasting record spring temperatures leading to an influx of tourism to local beaches. With COVID-19 overseas travel restrictions, Surf Lifesavers have been preparing for what is expected to be one of the biggest seasons on record.

The Northern Beaches Council recently launched a COVID-19 Summer Action Plan to manage crowds on beaches and at this week’s Council meeting agreed to call for volunteers to assist with crowd management so that the job would not be left to Surf Lifesavers.

Surf Life Saving Clubs have prepared for the season with additional measures, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and modified Standard Operating Procedures.

Surf Life Saving NSW is also deploying technology this season to support life saving operations, including:

  • A Beachsafe app to give real-time information on patrolled beach status, including closures due to over-crowding
  • The new¬†high-tech Surf Life Saving State Operations Centre (SOC) has greater capability to monitor and coordinate major incidents
  • UAV (drone) programs¬†at over 50 NSW beaches to assist with shark surveillance and beach patrols
  • The Surf Emergency Response System provides out-of-hours callout capability

The role of Surf Lifesavers this summer includes:

  • Identifying the safest part of the beach to place the red and yellow flags
  • Patrolling the flagged area and monitoring the beach
  • Conducting preventative actions and rescuing people in distress
  • Providing first aid and assistance to people in trouble on the beach and in the water
  • Working with other emergency services to assist with incident response
  • Provide information to beachgoers about surf conditions and beach safety
  • Proactive communication around social distancing requirements as outlined by a Public Health Order

While volunteer Surf Lifesavers will not be tasked with enforcing social distancing, Surf Life Saving NSW will be assisting authorities by providing information on overall beach attendance and coordinating beach closures if required.

UAVs (drones) can also be used to estimate numbers on beaches and identify other hazards to the public along the coast.

Surf Life Saving NSW is asking the public to be patient and cooperate to stay safe at the beach this season.

George Shales

George Shales

“With 129 patrolled locations there is plenty of beautiful coastline for everyone to discover and enjoy,” said Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales OAM.

“Please don’t take unnecessary risks that could put your life and those you love in danger as well as put unnecessary strain on our volunteers. We are prepared but we need the cooperation of everyone to keep our beaches open and safe for everyone to enjoy.”

The Surf Patrol season runs until Sunday, 25 April 2021.

Image: Shutterstock