Life Saving Victoria’s Rescue Water Craft (RWC – Jetski) lifeguard service rescued 12 people over the busy summer holiday period, more than double that of the previous year (26/12/17 – 26/01/18 compared to 26/12/18 – 26/01/19).
“Our RWC lifeguard service doubled, and so did our rescues – that’s a fantastic outcome for the Victorian community and potentially 12 families who may not have been able to spend their next Christmas holiday with these loved ones,” says Kane Treloar, LSV’s Acting Operations Manager.
Preventive actions over this period by RWC lifeguards were 2,185 compared to 1,174 the previous season. These are actions performed by lifeguards to prevent rescues – for example, alerting swimmers to rips when they are about to paddle into one.
“For the first time this season, we have expanded the RWC services to the Mornington Peninsula, Bellarine Peninsula and the eastern end of the Surf Coast. This has allowed us to double the coverage provided at unpatrolled locations,” says Kane, who is very proud of the hard work performed by the RWC lifeguards, while their friends may have been off enjoying their summer holidays. Some of their rescue stories are below:
TOURIST GETS TAKEN BY A RIP PAST THE BREAK ON A BOOGIE BOARD
Female RWC lifeguard Maddie Green is completing her third season on RWC patrol and remembers a rescue near Torquay in January when she spotted a man in his mid-twenties in trouble.
“It was a really nice day on the water as we travelled to Ocean Grove from Torquay, but on the way back the wind had picked up and it became really choppy,” says Maddie. “Just before 13th Beach, we spotted the man on his boogie board really far out past the breaking waves and realised he was stuck in a rip. He looked exhausted and wasn’t going anywhere as he attempted to return to shore.”
She says the man was a tourist to the area and when she took him back on the jetski to shore, she explained how to spot a rip and what to do if caught in one again.
On Sunday, Maddie is moving to Bendigo to study medicine, after being inspired by her experiences in lifesaving, but she will return to RWC lifeguarding next summer.
“I had a few critical incidences during my first patrolling years and was frustrated I couldn’t do more to help,” says Maddie. “I wanted to learn medicine to be of more assistance.”
She says seeing the coast from the water is a great experience and being able to respond quickly to incidences to complement the beach lifesavers is rewarding, but her favourite times have been pulling into beaches and talking to children.
“They are drawn to the RWC (jetskis) and want to know all about them,” says Maddie. “I’ve had great conversations sharing water safety education with them while they look at the jetski.”
YOUNG BOY SWIMS INTO A RIP AT AN UNPATROLLED BEACH
One memorable rescue for RWC lifeguard Brayden Allen was between the patrolled beach at Ocean Grove and RAAFS beach. He says it’s an area that is usually quiet and there were just a few dog walkers around.
He spotted a young boy aged between 11-14 out of his depth in the water, who waved at him and fellow RWC lifeguard Nick Giblin for help.
“He couldn’t make it back to shore, so we ran him on the RWC (jetski) back into where his parents were on the beach,” says Brayden. “It was reasonably windy and there was a rip flowing through where he was. He just got out of his depth and should have been swimming between the red and yellow flags that were set up much further up the beach.”
Brayden and his fellow RWC lifeguards work 8-hour shifts with between 3-4 hours, sometimes more, out on the water with engines running on patrol. The rest of the time they are on standby for call-outs.
SOMETIMES, EVEN EXPERIENCED BEACHGOERS NEED ASSISTANCE
It’s not just inexperienced swimmers who find themselves in trouble out in the ocean. On 28th December, RWC lifeguard Thomas Kennedy rescued 2 surfers 300m offshore near Jan Juc.
He said the conditions that day were a combination of really strong easterly winds and a decent swell, with a lot of very strong rips running on the Surf Coast.
“There was a huge rip at Jan Juc and I hadn’t seen one that size before,” says Thomas. “Two surfers, who seemed like they had plenty of experience, got into trouble out the back of the rip and couldn’t get back in. One was in his twenties and the other in his forties. The other RWC lifeguard and I helped them to shore.”
He said having the RWC lifeguards on patrol provides another set of eyes out the back of the waves in unpatrolled areas, to complement the volunteer lifesavers keeping people safe between the flags.
So far this summer (1 December 2018 – 1 February 2019), 174 people have been rescued by lifeguard services, which complement the volunteer lifesavers on patrol across 57 clubs in Victoria. Lifeguards also undertook almost 65,000 preventive actions over the period, as a proactive measure against rescues and drownings. 25 rescues in this period were done by RWC lifeguards.
Find a patrolled beach by visiting www.beachsafe.org.au.