Featured image: Professional Lifeguard Jett Kenny. Image credit: Sunshine Coast Council.

A Queensland Council, and its lifeguards, have warned that while the upcoming warmer and longer summer will entice locals to the beach, safety precautions must be taken and the water enjoyed only in designated, lifeguard-patrolled areas. 

Thousands of volunteer surf lifesavers, and professional lifeguards funded by Sunshine Coast Council, are bracing for what is expected to be one of their most challenging seasons.

The 2023-2024 volunteer surf lifesaving season begins 16 September 2023 and will run until early May 2024.

Surf Life Saving Queensland Sunshine Coast Regional Operations Manager, Aaron Purchase, said a key consideration was the predicted El Nino weather pattern that was likely to spark increased visitation.

Mr Purchase said the pattern historically brought drier and warmer conditions and a reduced risk of cyclonic weather.

“Traditionally, we see more people at the beach and in the water during hotter and drier summers and if they become complacent and stray from the red and yellow flags, they can very quickly get into trouble, sometimes with tragic consequences,” Mr Purchase said. 

“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 2022-23, lifeguards and lifesavers patrolling beaches in the Sunshine Coast Local Government Area recorded more than 7.5 million visitations, performed 745 rescues, 111,059 preventative actions and administered 3,336 first aid treatments.

Volunteer lifesavers patrol at major Sunshine Coast 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.

Sunshine Coast Council Community Portfolio Councillor, Rick Baberowski, said Council’s continued support for lifeguard services, operated by Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) across the region, is particularly important during what is predicted to be a hotter than average spring and summer.

“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,” Cr Baberowski said.

“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 to ensure Sunshine Coast beaches are even safer under the recently endorsed Surf Life Saving Queensland – Sunshine Coast Council Lifeguard Service Plan 2023-2028.

Among the most notable changes is a relocation of the existing lifeguard service, which operates during Queensland school holidays from September to Easter, from Golden Beach (beach access 317) to Happy Valley (beach access 293). This change will take effect from September 16, 2023.

Featured image: Professional Lifeguard Jett Kenny. Image credit: Sunshine Coast Council. 

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