Last Thursday a lifeguard on a Gold Coast beach rescued a 10 year old boy.
He was caught in a dangerous rip and wouldn’t have made it back to shore without help.
It was just one of 12,000 rescues that life savers will make on Australian beaches this year. But this one was different. The boy in trouble was Danish Prince Christian, the son of Prince Frederick & Princess Mary who are holidaying in Australia. Christian had been swimming between the flags before being caught in the rip.
It’s the stuff of nightmares and with good reason. Australian beaches might be iconic, beyond beautiful and etched into our national psyche, but they are also dangerous.
Luckily, there is a group of Australians who work around the clock, around the calendar, mostly on their own time, to make the beach a little bit safer for all of us.
Since 1907, when the Surf Life Saving movement began, lifesavers have saved more than 615,000 lives in Australia.
It started with some volunteers protecting the lives of fellow beach goers on Bondi Beach by performing patrols and rescues. Now, trained surf lifesavers spend more than a 1.4 million hours a year patrolling our beaches, pools and coastlines.
Each year, aside from making 12,000 rescues, surf lifesavers and Australian Lifeguard Service lifeguards provide emergency care to 64,000 beachgoers and give safety advice to more than 900,000 others.
With 169,633 members and 313 affiliated Surf Life Saving Clubs, Surf Life Saving Australia represents the largest volunteer movement of its kind in the world.
About 700 lifeguards are employed at 250 beaches across Australia and deliver professional lifeguard services to local governments, land managers and resorts.
That means there’s just under 169,000 lifesavers who aren’t paid to save lives: they do it for the love of the beach, for the love of their fellow Australians and for the love of their local communities.
We are all the beneficiaries of their generosity. We can all enjoy Australia’s beautiful beaches with peace of mind because of the army of men and women – young and old – who patrol them.
The lifeguard who rescued Prince Christian on the Gold Coast last week didn’t know he was saving a prince. He was simply doing his job. If it had been your son or my brother, in that situation, on that beach, on that day, they would have been treated to the same vigilant care as Prince Christian was. That is something to truly be grateful for.
So if you’re swarming to a beach this week, or in the weeks beyond, take a moment to thank the heroes who keep our beaches safe.
Or better yet, make a donation to the Surf Life Saving Foundation.
Aren’t the men and women who allow us to treasure our beaches as the ultimate holiday destination worth investing in?