photo ADAM WRIGHT
AN urgent call is going out for new volunteer surf life savers, as numbers at some South Coast clubs hit historic lows.
Ahead of another busy summer season, this could mean lives will be put at risk.
South Coast Surf Life Saving (SCSLS) branch president Steve Jones has never before had to make such an appeal.
He said three of the branch’s nine clubs; Gerringong, Shoalhaven Heads and Sussex Inlet were in desperate need of volunteers.
In fact, without more members, Sussex Inlet was in danger of closing.
With Cudmirrah Beach being one of the coast’s most dangerous, Mr Jones said the Sussex club needed 30 award members to operate. At the moment, that number stands at three.
“This is the first time we have done something like this and it’s been driven by what’s happening at these three surf clubs,” Mr Jones said.
“If Sussex can’t increase its membership they might not survive.
“Sussex Inlet goes from a population of 4500 to 20,000 people over summer, in an area of dangerous surf beaches.”
Mr Jones said while he was constantly hearing that people were too “time poor” to volunteer, he also noted that the clubs most in need were those in areas of high retirees and less young families.
He said there were a lot of benefits to be gained by joining a surf club, including life skills, training in ocean rescue and resuscitation and the chance to go on and work as a professional life saver.
“Every professional life saver, including those on Bondi Rescue, would have come up through a local surf club as a volunteer,” he said.
“Young volunteers complete their Surf Rescue Certificate, Bronze Medallion and can go on to pursue more advanced rescue certificates and awards.
“It also looks pretty good on a young person’s resume if an employer sees you have volunteered hundreds of hours for the community and achieved all this training and these awards.”
These benefits are beside the obvious one – the chance to save someone’s life.
“We have junior life savers as young as 13 who have saved people from the surf unassisted,” Mr Jones said.
A former policeman, Mr Jones has spent 34 years in the surf life saving movement, having started a surf club at Scarborough/Womabarra in the late 1970s.
Though he grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney, he is passionate about the benefits young people can gain from their involvement.
For more information on joining a club go to the Surf Life Saving NSW website, www.surflifesaving .com.au, or visit your local surf club’s open day on Sunday, September 29.