ACT News


Danger zone: Surf can be treacherous, lifeguards warn

AT just 17 and with eight weeks of professional lifeguarding experience, Jaykie Bull saved a man and his son.

The pair were drowning in huge surf off Dalmeny Beach near Narooma on the New South Wales South Coast when Bull grabbed a board and paddled out to rescue them.

"The son had taken in a fair bit of water so I got him on oxygen and called the ambulance," Bull said.

As the South Coast's lifeguards brace for their busiest time of the year, their peak representative body has warned the lack of swimming education was leading to dozens of drownings in coastal waters every year.

In 2011-2012, there were 119 coastal drowning deaths - up from 70 the previous year, with many of the victims from inland areas.

Chief executive officer of Lifeguarding Services Australia Stan Wall said his lifeguards performed 73 rescues in Eurobodalla last year.


"Thirty-two, so almost half were over the Christmas- New Year period," Mr Wall said.

And he said a lack of surf and swimming education in schools was to blame for the number of people drowning in coastal waters.

"The majority of our rescues were not from the coast ... and they don't have the access to the beaches and the surf education and swim programs."

He said the only safe place to swim was between the red and yellow flags.

"The flags are the place of least risk. Most people don't realise that on the outside of flags is usually where the rips are. Close to the flags is not good enough, you are in danger. If you walk another 10 meters between the flags you'll be a lot safer."

Bull will be back on patrol this summer and does not want a repeat of Boxing Day 2011. The rescue earned her a Lifeguard Association Award for meritorious service and fuelled her commitment to keeping swimmers safe.

"I felt that I had done everything I could - the guys were okay, we got them," Bull said.

For six weeks of the year Bull works as a paid lifeguard, but from October to April she volunteers her lifesaving skills on the South Coast's beautiful beaches .

"It's nice to give back to the community and keep an eye out for everyone," she said.

Each year she has to brush up on on first aid, CPR and treatment of spinal injuries. To prove her fitness and re-qualify as a lifeguard Bull must also complete a 800-metre swim fitness test in under 14 minutes and a beach mission. The beach course starts with a 600m swim followed by a 800m run, a 600m paddle before finishing with another 800m run - all to be completed in under 25 minutes.

Bull also said swimming between the iconic red and yellow flags was the best way to stay alive.

"The flags are there for a reason, it is the safest part of the beach ... if there are no flags don't swim."