Fox­ton’s life­guard short­age

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

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.

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