Surf’s up for New Year
By Julia Wade
Lazy summer days, big blue skies and a scorching heat wave made beaches the most preferred place to be over the recent holidays, the bonus of having the trained, watchful eyes of lifeguards adding a welcome safety element to having fun in the sun and surf.
With extra parking available due to the helicopter pad being opened up for use, large crowds kept the crew of Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifeguard Service (MHVLS) busy at the popular surf beach says club president Jon Drucker.
“Volunteer patrols on weekends and holidays, as well regional guards on weekdays, performed over 3000 preventative contacts, one rescue, a search involving the call out squad, numerous first aids including a spinal incident, an attempted resuscitation and assisted 26 people out of harms way,” he says.
A major part of the lifeguards role is to perceive possible trouble or danger before an incident occurs. Preventative actions include keeping a lookout for tide and current changes, warning swimmers heading unknowingly into rips, advising beachgoers of strong undertows and immersed rocks, and moving flags to show safe swimming areas.
"We're really promoting a preventative approach to lifeguarding and have benefited from a nice flat sandy beach at the Heads this summer,” Drucker says. “As always, we encourage visitors to not overestimate their abilities if swimming outside patrolling hours, and to swim between the flags when patrols are on.”
Sadly, despite the best efforts of lifeguards, tragedy still occurred with one male swimmer being pulled out from the water by two MHVLS crew members on January 23, and was unable to be resuscitated.
"One of the worst scenarios a lifeguard can respond to is a drowning incident” say Drucker. “However, this is what we train to do, and the lifeguards involved in this incident were spot on. Even though the outcome was not as we wished, our debrief with Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) found no room for improvement in our response. So, in a way, the incident has bolstered our team by affirming the validity of our training, and driving home the value of the service we perform for our community.
Nonetheless, a tragedy like this can have lingering impact on first responders, so we have been very fortunate to have the support of the SLSNR team. There was great support on the day of the incident, and ongoing support is available for any of our team who may need it.”
With the hugely popular Junior Surf program having 140 nippers enrolled this season, with many recently competing successfully in surf sport carnivals, 20 more candidates under current training for their Surf Lifesaving Award, as well as two more candidates signing up for off-water patrol support, the club’s potential to save lives continues to expand.
Community donations are a life-giving investment, vital in keeping the club afloat and Drucker says MHVLS are very grateful for the generous support shown from the recent annual Door Knock campaign.
“As well as donations from Molesworth Four Square, Mangawhai Factory Op shop, Tara Iti, Mangawhai Fishing Club, and Viranda Partners, and a rescue equipment donation from St John for our new response truck, thank you!” he says. “We are still fundraising for a two-way radio for the truck so if you’re interested in donating, please visit our Give a Little page through mhvls.com. Thank you everyone.”
Invite: Come to the beach and join the Surf life club for their annual beach day on February 16. Activities kick off at 11am and will include beach flag races, a big dig, swim around Head Rock and a sand castle competition. Sausage sizzle and drinks will be available to purchase on the day.
MHVLS lifeguards head out for an exercise around Head Rock. Lifeguards will be on patrol duty every weekend until Easter.