Local surf lifesaving clubs are struggling with numbers as we head into beach patrol season.
Austinmer is one of the Northern Illawarra’s busiest beaches and relies heavily on volunteers. This season they’re down to three patrol groups, which is half the number they had last year.
Organisers say that puts a lot of pressure on the lifesavers, who will be rostered on to 22 patrols this season!
It’s a similar story at Scarborough, where they’ve lost eight patrolling members from last season.
Club president Bindi says Nipper numbers at the club are strong, but that’s not helping with patrolling members.
The club has six small patrols this season and survives with the support of Coledale SLSC.
Meanwhile Garie SLSC in the National Park has come up with a plan, they’re recruiting members from Western Sydney.
“Every summer we’re seeing more people from Western Sydney coming to Garie. The car park fills up most weekends and National Parks has to close the road down to the beach,” said Garie SLSC President Brad Taylor.
“There’s talk of establishing a bus service from Waterfall Train Station and Cronulla which will mean even more people coming to Garie and Wattamolla beaches,” says Brad.
“We know that it’s difficult for new surf lifesavers to make the trip to Garie Beach mid-week for the Bronze Medallion training program. So, for the first time, Garie SLSC is partnering with an aquatic centre located in Auburn, Western Sydney to provide some of the training there.
“It’s much more convenient for people living in Western Sydney, where most Garie beachgoers come from, to do their lifesaver training in Auburn” Said Rebecca Heron-Dowling.
With only 25 volunteer surf lifesavers signed up for the coming summer season, Garie SLSC is one of the smallest clubs in NSW. It’s also one of the few surf clubs in the Royal National Park that’s accessible by road, which means it also responds to coastal emergencies at nearby Figure 8 Pools and Wattamolla Beach swimming areas – altogether a 12-kilometre stretch of coastline.
Last summer alone there were two deaths at unpatrolled Wattamolla Beach, where two 20-year-old men drowned in separate incidents. With an increase in beach attendance anticipated this summer, Garie Beach lifesavers are expecting more call-outs to critical incidents like these.
“When we have enough volunteer lifesavers reporting for duty at Garie Beach, we can also respond to incidents at Wattamolla Beach. Unfortunately, with only 25 surf lifesavers volunteering for patrol this coming summer, responding to incidents at Wattamolla beach may be very difficult,” said Garie SLSC Recruitment Officer, Rebecca Heron-Dowling.
Garie SLSC has developed a range of posters to promote their new training program that feature images of surf lifesavers from diverse cultural backgrounds. Reflecting the diversity of people who visit Garie Beach, the posters feature lifesavers wearing the unique Patrol Burquini. Garie SLSC is asking people to download and distribute the posters in their communities.
It’s not too late to sign up to help local surf clubs this season with many running Bronze Medallion courses in coming weeks.
You can contact the surf club nearest you through their website or Facebook page.