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A new lifesaving season brings new challenges

READY FOR ACTION: Lifeguard Blake Forbes keeps a watchful eye over Rainbow Beach yesterday.
READY FOR ACTION: Lifeguard Blake Forbes keeps a watchful eye over Rainbow Beach yesterday. Jacob Carson

IT'S BEEN a dreary start to the school holidays and the official launch of the surf lifesaving season in Queensland.

But for the men and women who patrol our beaches day in and day out, it's nothing to complain about.

Despite a large number of campers and families heading to Rainbow Beach on a warmer-than-expected Saturday, it's been a very low-key beginning to the school holidays.

"It's certainly been a quiet start to the season, which means we aren't run off our feet all day long,” says Rainbow Beach lifeguard Blake Forbes.

"The weather has really contributed to the low numbers but as the holidays roll on I can guarantee we'll be seeing more out here.”

Despite the wet and windy beginning to the week, the conditions have been better than expected, with warm temperatures and clear water across the beach.

"It's really beautiful out there,” says fellow lifeguard Paddy O'Shaughnessy.

"The rain we've had has dirtied it up somewhat, people don't seem to be minding.”

Blake and Paddy will be two parts of a larger lifeguarding force across Queensland beaches this summer.

A wrap-up of the 2015/6 season by Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) shows just under 4000 rescues were performed, with first-aid treatments administered to over 20,000 beach-goers.

Despite the valiant effort by volunteers and staff, 11 people drowned off Queensland beaches last season, with four of those deaths taking place in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions.

The 'Coast Safe Report 2016' highlights not only the previous season but also looks forward to this year, highlighting a number of 'blackspots' across the coast.

The stretch of coastline from Noosa River to Rainbow Beach has been identified as one of these blackspots, as has Teewah Beach, Freshwater and the ocean side of Fraser Island.

The report lists a number of initiatives SLSQ will be undertaking to improve safety in these regions.

Chief among these changes are the installation of Australian standard safety signage at high-risk areas, greater awareness of the dangers of rips and expanding on the use of aerial patrols.

The report also highlights the steady population rise in South-East Queensland and Sunshine Coast regions.

As for what residents and visitors can do to keep themselves safe, the same rules apply as always, according to the Rainbow Beach lifeguards.

"It should almost go without saying now,” says Paddy O'Shaughnessy.

"Stay within the flags at all times, don't head out too deep, keep an eye out for your kids and if you get caught within a rip - stay calm, raise your hands for assistance and don't fight against the tide.”

Gympie Times

Topics:  rainbow beach, surf lifesaver, surf life saving season



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