Life-savers’ busy season ends

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Blue sky day . . . Friends Kristin Boyes (left) and Ana Dube make the most of the warm weather with a walk on St Kilda beach yesterday. PHOTOS: JESSICA WILSON

Otago’s surf life-savers have clocked off for another year after performing more than 50 rescues, at least six times that of last season.

Easter traditionally marks the end of surf life-saving patrol season and this year comes after a summer of record-breaking temperatures.

The season began at Labour weekend and involved 74 clubs patrolling 92 locations nationwide.

This includes four in Otago – St Clair, St Kilda, Brighton and Warrington surf life-saving clubs.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) club support officer Maddy Crawford said the region’s beaches and lifeguards were “extremely busy” due to the warm weather.

Volunteer lifeguards were on patrol for more than 7000 hours during summer and 55 new qualified lifeguards were added to the ranks, she said.

In total, there were 100 minor first aid incidents, four major first aid incidents, 46 people assisted to safety, more than 4000 preventative actions, over 50 rescues and 10 search and rescue callouts.

Last season, there were eight rescues, 24 first aids and six searches. Lifeguards assisted six members of the public to safety and performed 1304 preventative actions.

Since the start of the season, St Clair and St Kilda surf life-saving clubs were extra busy, as they extended their lifeguard services to Tomahawk beach, Ms Crawford said.

SLSNZ life-saving and education manager Allan Mundy said this season was very busy compared with last season and many lifeguards operated in some challenging conditions.

“Great weather naturally increases the number of people flocking to beaches and therefore we’re likely to see rescue numbers go up, but one of the key factors to look at is the number of assists that have been carried out by lifeguards to prevent people from getting into a life-threatening situation.”

Nationwide there was a 26% increase on the number of rescues compared with last season and an 84% increase in the number of assists. Lifeguards carried out 769 rescues and 2176 assists.

Mr Mundy said there was an unusually high number of swimmers on the country’s beaches each day, and larger-than-normal surf.

“[Lifeguards] can be proud of the fact that they have contributed to saving hundreds of lives.”