Surf lifesavers practise their skills using a life-size dummy at Lennox Head beach.
Surf lifesavers practise their skills using a life-size dummy at Lennox Head beach. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Surf lifesavers gear up for sharks and summer

IN A show of strength and capability, up to 60 surf lifesavers, 12 Inflatable Rubber Boats (IRBs), two jet skis and a jet boat took part in an integrated training exercise at Lennox Head on Sunday morning.

The event was the largest training exercise of its kind, and a "response to the current shark problem in the Ballina Shire," Surf Life Saving Far North Coast said.

It was also about reassuring "the public that Surf Life Saving is putting in the effort to keep them safe and also to demonstrate the rescue capacity that is available," the organisation said.

Six SLS clubs from the Far North Coast region, extending from Yamba to Fingal Heads, had members take part in a range of training activities, according to Michael Crawley, director of lifesaving at the Kingscliff SLSC, and the organiser of the exercise.

The day also included a demonstration of the capabilities of an airborne spotter drone. The new technology was still very much in the trial phase as a new tool for lifesavers, Mr Crawley said.

"Today is just about how we could use a drone to identify an object at sea, and then triangulate our resources faster to a rescue situation," he said.

There were plans to have a helicopter take part in the exercises but this was prevented by bad weather.

The training is "all about preparing the clubs for summer", Mr Crawley said.

Modern surf lifesavers have a range of resources on hand, and training days were about making sure all those capabilities "are working together, whatever the circumstance," he said.

"And the interclub skill transfer process means we can operate on a range of different beaches, and resource each club along the coastline."

The IRB proficiency drill required a two-person crew to collect a "dead-wait dummy" that weighed close to 100 kilograms when wet.

Despite the range of technology and other resources available to surf lifesavers, the basics remained the same, Mr Crawley said.

"A very good swimmer or paddler will always do a great job, motor craft does a slightly different job under different requirements and different circumstance," he said.

"And the end of the day you still need a life saver."