The 2019/20 Surf Life Saving season has been one of the most challenging we have seen – following the catastrophic bushfires impacting coastal communities across the state, followed by storms and floods, and now we are all feeling the impacts of social distancing and an early end to the season.
“I want to sincerely thank all volunteers for their outstanding contribution throughout the season and for your strength and resilience in the face of the many challenges that continue to come our way,” said President of Surf Life Saving NSW, George Shales.
“The early conclusion to the season was a major disappointment for us all but I’m very proud of the way in which clubs took the lead and set a great example to the rest of the community by encouraging their own members and the broader community to stay at home and social distance to keep safe.”
With beaches closed and lifesavers no longer on patrol, there was a real concern for the safety of those who continued to swim, surf, paddle or go boating or rockfishing. Branch Support Operations services and callout teams thankfully continued to provide support and have been patrolling over the last month using jetskis, offshore rescue boats and UAVs.
“Thanks to all the volunteers who have provided support and attended numerous incidents and emergency callouts throughout NSW,” said NSW Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman.
“We have responded to many incidents, in fact, more than we were tasked to assist with during the summer season which is incredible. It’s a testament to the calibre of our volunteers that even during a global pandemic, our members rise to the occasion and continue to respond and to save lives along our coast,” said Joel Wiseman.
Paid Lifeguards have also stepped up to continue to provide essential patrol or surveillance services on many beaches with some councils extending their lifeguard services to cover when volunteer patrols ceased in late March.
In addition to keeping the public safe, lifeguards have had the additional challenge of educating and reminding the public of the need for them to socially distance at the beach.
“I’m extremely proud of the way our lifeguards have handled themselves and have continued to undertake their duties with professionalism and good grace under these challenging circumstances.” said Operations Manager, Brent Manieri.
Surf Life Saving NSW and the Australian Lifeguard Service thanks all volunteers and paid lifeguards for their vigilance and service during this extraordinary and unprecedented times and look forward to returning to beaches to protect and save lives next season.