Board riders are being looked to as the next line of defense against drowning deaths, particularly at unpatrolled beaches.
The Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant announced $134,000 in funding for Surfing NSW’s “Surfer Rescue 24/7” program while visiting Newcastle on Monday.
The three-hour course teaches surfers how to deliver CPR, and how to use a surfboard as a flotation device to assist people struggling in the water.
Over the past six years 7000 surfers have completed the class. Approximately 400 rescues performed by graduates of the program have been reported to Surfing NSW.
The funding will allow the training of “up to” 2000 board riders across the state this year.
“They’re already naturally skilled in the water, they know the conditions probably better than anybody and they’ve got a capability which is instinctive, so we want to give them some formal skills to add to that ability,” Mr Grant said.
“Currently, Surfing NSW is applying to water safety grants, so we’re looking at other ways ... to make it more core business.”
Surfing NSW’s chief executive officer Luke Madden said the extra classes would be delivered by connecting with surf schools and board riders clubs.
“That board would probably float an 150 kilogram man. So it would save 99 per cent of the population."Kye Egel
“With more than a million surfers in NSW, it is safe to say that board riders play a vital role in rescues when people get into trouble outside of patrolled areas,” Mr Madden said.
A Surfer Rescue 24/7 course instructor Kye Egel said the lessons were currently delivered on an “ad hoc” basis, largely at surf competitions.
“The funding will allow us to deliver more courses in different scenarios and situations, including in regional areas,” he said.
Mr Egel said he knew children who had saved adult men with the skills they learnt from the program.
“That board would probably float an 150 kilogram man. So it would save 99 per cent of the population,” he said.
“Once you’ve got the flotation you can get your breath back and calm your heart rate and work your way in at your own pace.”
The University of Newcastle student has performed rescues himself.
“I first got put through the course in 2014 at Boomerang Beach, and actually saved someone three weeks later.
“There were two girls stuck in a rip with a board and with those techniques I was able to save them both.
“So it was pretty good timing.”
Up to ten Surfers Rescue 24/7 classes will be held in Newcastle over the year.
The next course will take place at the national final of the Australian Board Riders Battle, to be held on Newcastle Beach on February 16 and 17.