Hunter Surf Life Saving volunteers have been working hard to keep swimmers safe at the region’s beaches this year.
President Henry Scruton admitted the season was busy but “not as much as it could be”.
“It’s been on and off really, because of the weather,” he says.
“We have beautiful sunny days on some weekends and then it buckets down rain others, which isn’t really beach going weather, but currently it’s fabulous.
“We’ve noticed the crowds on the beaches on good days have a lot of people from Sydney or Western Sydney visiting because it is quicker and easier, apparently, to get on the highway and shoot up to Caves Beach or Redhead and areas like that rather than going to the beaches in Sydney, which are crowded and almost overpopulated.
“Due to the numbers allowed at the beaches, places like Dudley and Burwood are becoming really popular as well.
“But, they are harder to get to so that’s something we have to be aware of and make sure we have roving patrols visiting those beaches frequently.”
Mr Scruton adds the Hunter Surf Life Saving members have been ensuring beachgoers are COVID-safe and adhere to social distancing measures.
“We have recorded messages at most of our beaches reminding people that the surf lifesavers and lifeguards are not the police, but we are urging people to be aware of social distancing,” he says.
“We’re pretty fortunate that within the Hunter area we don’t get overpopulated or our beaches are big enough to take crowds.
“A ruling came in that we should have a beach towel between each other, so if I can flick you with my beach towel you are too close.
“But, I think we all like our own plot of sand and we have been widening the flags so there is more space for people to swim in that area.”
When it comes to the rest of the season, Mr Scruton wishes he had a crystal ball to help predict what will happen.
“At this stage we are all prepared, our clubs have been doing their training and upskilling and, if we keep getting this glorious weather, we anticipate that the beach will draw crowds of people enjoying themselves.”
He also urges the public to only swim at patrolled beaches.
“Always swim with a friend and, depending on the conditions, never go beyond your capability,” Mr Scruton says.
“And, if you have had a couple of drinks don’t go in the water, it nulls your ability.
“Unfortunately, that’s where we have had a couple of incidents, of people having a few drinks or not thinking they’ve had as many and they’ve gone in the water and needed rescuing.”
He adds if you do get into trouble to follow the “age-old rule of putting your hand up and waving it like crazy”.
“That’s an emergency signal which tells us to get out there and offer assistance,” Mr Scruton explained.