By Shelby Brooks

A NEW report by Life Saving Victoria has found that in the last decade, 58 people have drowned in Gippsland, three of them in the last financial year. The figures are the highest in the state.

The hundreds of kilometres of shoreline from Wonthaggi to New South Wales and many lakes and rivers makes Gippsland particularly dangerous.

The data comes as surf lifesavers return for the summer season of patrolling their local beaches.

Cape Paterson, Inverloch, Venus Bay, Wonthaggi and Woolamai clubs started life saving patrols Saturday, November 28.

Last season volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards in Victoria performed 475 rescues, attended 2339 first aid incidents and helped keep an estimated more than 2.34 million visitors to the state’s beaches safe.

LSV Lifesaving Services general manager Liam Krige said wherever possible, swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.

“Make sure to check the weather and conditions, read safety signs and always swim with a friend,” he said.

“If you haven’t been out in the water for a while, please take extra precautions and prepare and plan your day. All beaches, even bay beaches, can be dangerous and have hidden dangers such as rips.”

President at Cape Paterson Surf Life Saving Club Dean Manns said it was important to know what to do if you’re caught in a rip.

“Strong swimmers can swim against it,” he said.

“If you’re not a strong swimmer or you get tired out, let the rip take you out behind the break and then swim parallel out of it. Then swim back to shore.”

Head to beachsafe.org.au for more information about patrolled beaches and conditions.

Cape Paterson

CAPE Paterson First Surf Beach is a great place for families.

The rock reef on the west side protects the beach from the biggest swells.

“It’s a good beach. As far as surf beaches go it’s quite protected,” Dean said.

Though like all beaches, there is always a danger.

“At low tide, big wave can dump into shallow water which could leave someone with spinal injuries,” Dean said.

Surf Life Savers patrol the beach every weekend until Christmas, Saturday 1.30pm to 4pm and Sunday 10pm to 4pm.

After Christmas until April 18, patrols are set up Saturday 1pm to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm.

Inverloch

PRESIDENT of the Inverloch Surf Life Saving Club (ISLSC) Warren Cook said generally, Inverloch Surf Beach was safe.

“Swim between the flags, especially if you’re uninitiated with the surf or an older person,” Warren said.

“We’ve never had a drowning between the flags.”

He said looking out for rips is important, with a permanent one at Ozone and tidal changes out of the inlet often causing some.

Patrols will be set up between the yellow and red flags every weekend until Christmas, Saturday 1pm to 4pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm.

After Christmas, patrols will be present every weekend and public holiday the same time, but starting at 10am Saturdays.

Venus Bay

THE First Surf Beach at Venus Bay can be quite treacherous, Venus Bay Surf Life Saving Club (VBSLSC) secretary Robyn Kaye said.

“It is a very long beach and we just patrol the first beach. Our biggest concern is with social distancing, people will go further along to different beaches where we don’t patrol,” she said.

Surf life savers will patrol the beach every weekend until Christmas 9am to 4pm Saturday and Sundays.

From December 29 to January 25, paid lifeguards patrol the beach in the mornings on weekends and weekdays, with volunteers patrolling afternoons on the weekend.

Wonthaggi

WONTHAGGI Life Saving Club patrols Bay Beach at Cape Paterson, the only low level access beach between Phillip Island and Inverloch.

Club president Mark Scott said it was an idyllic beach that was relatively safe, although the club has performed 110 rescues in the last 10 years. “It’s a family beach for mums, dads, children and grandparents,” he said.

Surf life savers will patrol the beach until Christmas on Saturdays 1.30pm to 5pm and Sundays 10.30pm to 4.30pm. Patrols will continue through to April 18.

Woolamai

VOLUNTEER surf lifesavers from the Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club (WBSLSC) patrol Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island on weekends and public holidays over the summer season.

Club member Riley Fyffe said beach conditions change rapidly so it is vital to follow lifesavers instructions.

Patrols by surf life savers will be set up between the red and yellow flags every weekend until Christmas, Saturdays 1pm to 4.30pm and Sundays and Public Holidays 10.30am to 4.30pm. 

From Saturday, December 26 to Tuesday, January 26, patrols will be set up Saturdays 1pm to 6pm and Sundays and Public Holidays 10am to 6pm. 

From Wednesday, January 27 to Sunday, April 18 patrols will set up Saturdays 1pm to 4.30pm and Sundays and Public Holidays 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Paid Lifeguards, not affiliated with the WBSLSC, are also present at Woolamai Beach seven days a week, 10am to 6pm December 29 to February 6.

Smiths and Cowes Beaches

Paid lifeguards are also present at Smiths Beach and Cowes Beach every day 10am to 6pm from December 26 to January 26 for Smiths and February 6 for Cowes.