The hottest March day on record and a deceptively strong swell combined to create a challenging weekend on the beach for the state’s surf lifesavers all of whom proved once again to be up to the task in extreme conditions.
Over the course of the weekend lifesavers in NSW rescued almost 500 people, a statistic nearly double the season’s previous high recorded over the New Year period.
Of these rescues 105 were performed at North Bondi while a further 67 were at the southern end of the famous beach. With huge crowds descending on the eastern suburbs in an effort to beat the heat, the lifesavers and lifeguards had to shoulder a heavy workload.
Other beaches that saw plenty of action included Bulli where 63 rescues were performed, and North Cronulla (28).
There were 28 ambulances called out on the weekend with ten people requiring hospitalisation for suspected spinal injuries, and a further three needing assessment for heat related conditions.
Unfortunately the message of safety around rip currents is still struggling to cut through with some people as a number of incidents highlight.
In the most serious, a 27-year-old man was pulled out of the water by lifesavers from North Steyne SLSC on Sunday before being transported to hospital, while at Mona Vale a woman in her 50s also required medical treatment after being rescued from the surf.
There was also a near miss at Toowoon Bay on the state’s Central Coast and at Birubi on Saturday evening when three people ended up in hospital following an after-hours incident.
Perhaps the most significant supporting role surf lifesavers played was on the Far South Coast where bushfires ravaged the small coastal town of Tathra where houses were lost and people headed to the safety of the beach to take refuge from the fire front.
As small communities often do in crisis situations, they rallied around those in trouble and members of Surf Life Saving were among the first to lend a hand. The surf club at Bermagui was turned into a make-shift evacuation centre in a matter of hours and more than 300 stranded people were offered support with accommodation, food, water and medical assistance.
A number of inflatable rescue boats and jet skis from Tathra and Pambula SLSCs responded to the call for help to support emergency services, taking to the Bega River to standby in the event people needed to be evacuated by water.
“I would like to publicly thank all of our lifesavers who rose to the challenge over the weekend especially those involved in the ongoing operations on the Far South Coast,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce.
“Surf Life Saving has a strong presence in the Tathra area and we will be doing everything possible to support our members and the wider community who have been touched by the fire. We have heard reports that a number of our surf lifesavers have themselves lost or sustained damage to their homes,” he said.
Other clubs in the region have already offered to support with patrols this weekend at Tathra if required to relieve patrolling members rostered on duty.
Members who have been involved in the fire operations will be offered critical incident support or counselling if required.
Monday 19 March 2018