Foxton’s lifeguard shortage
Foxton Surf Life Saving Club’s low membership has seen Foxton Beach become a training ground for members of other clubs called in to help out.
The club has just one-third of the number of lifeguards it needs and has struggled to attractmembers for years.
The club has about 10 lifeguards, but with a beach that attracts up to 600 visitors a day in summer, it is seeking help from clubs in Wellington and Horowhenua.
The summer patrol starts on the first weekend of December and runs through to March - with weekday patrols during the school holidays.
In the 2016/17 season, clubs that helped included Lyall Bay, Titahi Bay, Waitarere and Himatangi, who patrolled Foxton Beach once every three weeks. It will be the same pattern for the 2017/18 season.
Waitarere Beach lifeguard Nathan Berry said it provided a development opportunity for other clubs, as well as benefiting the Foxton club - one of few with dwindling numbers in the country.
‘‘A lot of the urban clubs in Wellington don’t get rough swells, [so] they get to work on skills they wouldn’t get to develop at their home clubs.’’
Navigating surf and working in rougher water were skills lifeguards could put to the test at Foxton Beach, Berry said.
ForWaitarere club members, who were familiar with rough swells, working at a new club could teach them how to work with different people, he said.
‘‘It’s always good to go out and learn from other lifeguards.’’
Foxton Surf Life Saving Club chairman Shaun Sayer said ideally, the club needed about 30 lifeguards, so about 10 could be on duty each weekend.
The club had picked up a few extra guards, but others had left, so the numbers had stayed low. There was still time to sign up before the summer season though, Sayer said.
Foxton club vice captain Kim O’Leary said training to keep fit for patrolling was essential and having every third weekend off helped.
Generally, lifeguards did not patrol every weekend as it was tiring, especially in the summer heat, O’Leary said. ‘‘It’s quite hard on our bodies.’’ O’Leary was a lifeguard at Foxton for 10 years as a teen and now in her late 30s, recently moved back to Foxton.
The club asked her if she would re-join.
With the help of other clubs, there were more than 1240 recorded hours of volunteer work at Foxton Beach last summer. This was 470more hours than the 2015/16 season.
Four members of the public were rescued, 22 were treated for minor injuries and one for major injuries.
Surf lifeguards also prevented 1600 members of the public from potentially hazardous situations at Foxton.