An army of volunteers donned in red and yellow is manning beaches across the region as the surf lifesaving season kicks into gear.
Thousands of volunteer surf lifesavers and professional lifeguards are bracing for what is expected to be a challenging season, and beach-goers are being reminded of the dangerous of swimming in unpatrolled areas. The 2023-2024 volunteer surf lifesaving season began last weekend and will run until early next May with an increased number of visitors expected during that time.
Surf Life Saving Queensland Sunshine Coast regional operations manager Aaron Purchase says predicted hotter and dryer conditions this summer is likely to spark increased beach visitation.
“Traditionally, we see more people at the beach and in the water during hotter and drier summers,” Mr Purchase says.
“If they become complacent and stray from the red and yellow flags, they can very quickly get into trouble – sometimes with tragic consequences.
“When it is really rough, it’s obvious that the conditions are dangerous and people stay out. But when it’s seemingly calmer, they enter the water or swim out a bit further than their ability should allow, thinking it’s safe. They can easily miss the hidden dangers, like rips. Our advice is always to stick to patrolled areas where lifeguards and lifesavers can see them.”
Throughout the 2022-23 season, lifeguards and lifesavers patrolling beaches in the Sunshine Coast Local Government Area recorded more than 7.5 million visitations, performed 745 rescues and 111,059 preventative actions, and administered 3336 first-aid treatments.
Sunshine Coast Council invests funding into the lifeguard services, operated by Surf Life Saving Queensland across the region.
“Council’s $5.8 million investment in lifeguard services this financial year provides 34 permanent lifeguards, two supervisors, a chief lifeguard and a casual pool of up to 96 lifeguards during peak season, across 22 patrolled beach locations from North Coolum to Bulcock Beach,” Councillor Rick Baberowski says. “It also provides our professional lifeguards with vital equipment they need to perform their duties, including jet skis, rescue boards, flags, first-aid kits and portable surveillance cameras for high-risk locations.”
A number of improvements will be made to lifeguard services between Caloundra and Coolum under the recently endorsed Surf Life Saving Queensland – Sunshine Coast Council Lifeguard Service Plan 2023-2028.
Among the changes now in place is a relocation of the existing lifeguard service from Golden Beach (Beach Access 317) to Happy Valley (Beach Access 293), due to more visitors to Happy Valley since the January 2022 breakthrough of Bribie Island.
Volunteer lifesavers patrol at major Sunshine Coast and Noosa beaches every weekend and on public holidays from 7am to 5pm from September school holidays to early May, with extended hours to 6pm through the busy Christmas holiday period.
This vital service supports lifeguard patrols, which occur year-round.
For patrol info, visit beachsafe.org.au.