Rips, rocks, bluebottle stings … life's a beach for our summer angels
Professional lifeguards at Malua Bay, Casidhe Rutter and Bernard Robben, on the job. Photo: Graham Tidy GGT
The summer holidays are in full swing down the South Coast and, thankfully, so are the lifesavers.
From easing painful bluebottle stings to pulling swimmers from dangerous rips and keeping a close eye on rock fishermen, the keepers of beach safety are already flat out.
They were called into action on Friday when two rock fishermen triggered an emergency response at Malua Bay when they became separated from a headland while catching salmon and bream.
Sharon Schaefer of Broulee and her grandson, Luke Bombanato of Summer Hill, 6, enjoy the surf at South Broulee. Photo: Graham Tidy
The flags were dropped and the beach closed after a man on a nearby balcony, who had been watching the fishermen through binoculars, rang triple-O.
Lifesaver Bernard Robben paddled 800 metres around rocks to check on the two fishermen's safety at about 10am.
The nearby Southcare helicopter went to rescue the pair, but was called away to another job when it became clear it was not needed.
Rock fisherman at Malua Bay found themselves stranded at high tide but were later reported not to be in any danger. Photo: Graham Tidy
''They had planned to be there and walked out about 6am and were in place for the high tide at 9am,'' Mr Robben said.
Although it was a long paddle, the water was calm.
''The swell dropped right down, there were a few submerged rocks that came out of nowhere,'' he said.
On Christmas Eve, Mr Robben and lifesaver Casidhe Rutter rescued a 44-year-old Korean man and his 13-year-old daughter who were caught in a rip at Malua Bay.
Mr Robben said it was a well-known rip created by the small beach that left little room for the water to retreat.
He hit the water with a board, while Ms Rutter took a tube and put it over the teenager, who had become distressed. ''They got into strife and panicked a bit,'' Ms Rutter said. ''We went out about 40 metres and then swam them to the breakers to settle them down.''
The lifesaver said the two swimmers had no experience in surf conditions. ''They had next to no swimming experience, even less on the beach,'' she said. ''They had their mum on the beach and they got too far out.''
Trouble was also coming in tiny blue packages this summer. North-east winds had blown bluebottles onto South Coast beaches, keeping lifesavers busy easing painful stings. Swimmers had been stung at Broulee, Narooma, Pambula and Bermagui.
Luke Bombanato, 6, of Summer Hill, saw them but was undeterred. His grandmother Sharon Schaefer, enjoying a sea-change at Broulee, was happy to run the gauntlet with the little stingers. ''We have seen four, not enough to worry about,'' she said.
At Broulee on Thursday, lifesaver Ben McKay said the north-east winds picked up bluebottles out at sea and blew them onshore. Broulee was more protected than some of the other beaches and it was not such a problem.
He said the best remedy was warm water. ''Make it as hot as you can stand it - a hot shower or a hot bath.''
Lifesavers also rescued two men caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach at Moruya Wall about 12.30pm on Thursday.
The Far South Coast Lifesaving Association's Andrew Edmunds said the rip had carried the men about 50 to 60 metres out to sea, a long way for two people who could not swim. Each beach had potential for danger, Mr Edmunds said. ''The way a rip operates, the water carried in by the surf heads back out to sea. So any beach you see a wave, you will see a rip. They are easy to spot. They are usually where the waves are not breaking.
''It is not so much the rip that gets people into difficulty, it is the panic that flows from being caught in a rip. A rip will never pull you under the water or drown you. It's the fact people will panic and tire out when they find themselves caught in one because they generally try and swim against it, which is pretty hard to do.
''It is the highest cause of coastal drownings in Australia. I think they had 47 drownings last year, compared to one fatal shark attack in the last 20 years.''