Surf Life Saving New South Wales, Media Release, 19 July 2023
New figures to come out of the 2022/23 season show a near-25 per cent increase year on year in beach attendances, keeping Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) lifeguards on their toes along the NSW coastline.
Following the conclusion of the financial year, organisations under the Surf Life Saving NSW umbrella have been able to accurately calculate the numbers behind the season that was, with work already begun on preparing for 2023/24.
While beach attendance ballooned by just under 1 million as the public continues to free itself from the grip of two lockdown-interrupted years, preventative actions – being those taken to reduce beachgoer risk, like moving the flags with changing tides and alerting swimmers to potential rips – rose by over 30 per cent.
That jump, of approximately 150,000 actions in all, has lifeguards on alert for the next season.
“While the rise in the need for further preventative actions on our beaches is generally proportionate with the rise in beachgoers, we can still look at these figures as a catalyst for what our focuses in training are heading into the new season,” said Chris O’Rorke from the ALS.
“The ALS has lifeguards in 17 Council and contracted areas across the state, from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley Shire in the south, so the numbers are an accurate reflection of the beachgoer experience in NSW.
“Lifeguards made nearly 1,000 rescues this past season and provided more than 2,700 first aids. We are as active as ever along the coastline and we don’t expect that to slow down.”
Indeed, 974 rescues state wide – 303 of which coming on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and more than 100 in popular holidaying destinations in the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Tweed Shire Council catchments – is steady year-on-year but highlights the continued need for trained lifeguards patrolling the coastline.
The delivery of 2,739 first aids is also on par with the previous season.
“We’re pleased to see that the level of focus and, probably above all else, effort from our lifeguards never waivers year to year and, if anything, they’re working harder than ever,” Chris added.
“I think there’s an appreciation within the group that we have that they’re very privileged to be able to call the beach their office but there’s a responsibility to the public that comes with that, and every single one of them is working to keep the beach as safe as they possibly can.
“It’s part and parcel of the Australian lifestyle, the beach and summer, but the coastline is dangerous all year round so it’s important to be vigilant at all times.”
Sadly, and despite the best efforts of lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers alike, 54 people drowned in coastal waters in NSW between July 1 2022 and June 30 2023.
ALS lifeguards are on hand year-round in three catchment areas; that of Byron Shire Council, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Port Stephens Council, as a means of arresting those figures while also providing general safety to beachgoers.
The remaining 14 Council and contracted regions operate on a reduced roster that, in most locations, follows the volunteer lifesaver season, being from the beginning of the September school holidays through to the ANZAC Day public holiday the following year.