Swell end to beach season

LIFEGUARDS performed half the number of rescues this summer compared with last season as just fewer than 1 million people attended Newcastle beaches.

While Newcastle City Council’s lifeguards wound down patrols yesterday after another extended summer season, chief lifeguard Warren Smith said a number of factors including wet weather and better beach management contributed to a drop from 292 rescues last season to 143 this season.

‘‘Certainly the weather played a part [in the drop in crowds], but we carried out 16,500 preventative actions and that also plays a big role in reducing the number of rescues,’’ Mr Smith said.

Preventative actions include instructing swimmers to move out of dangerous areas or ensuring they swim between the flags, Mr Smith said.

‘‘Beach management is so important,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’re having a lot of rescues, then you need to look at how you’re managing the beach, which is why rescues are down and we had so many preventative actions this season.’’

About 995,000 people visited Stockton, Nobbys, Newcastle, Bar Beach, Dixon Park and Merewether beaches during the 2011-12 summer season, down about 125,000 on last season, Mr Smith said.

Most Newcastle beaches were closed yesterday as a bumper swell pounded the coast. Surfers took to Merewether and Newcastle beaches in particular for the pick of the waves.

Patrols will continue at Nobbys and Bar Beach during the winter while Merewether and Newcastle ocean baths are also patrolled all-year round.

Council patrols will resume at other beaches in August.

The Bureau of Meteorology was forecasting another day of dangerous surf conditions today with large tides threatening to wash over ocean baths and sections of the coast.

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