Beach-goers under watchful eye
Denmark surf life savers Gareth Howells, Patrick McCarthy and Michaela Ross

Visitors to two of the south coast's premier beaches this summer can take comfort knowing they will be under the watchful gaze of highly trained lifeguards, as long as they swim between the red and yellow flags.

Full-time patrolling at Denmark's Ocean Beach began on December 19 with lifeguards Gareth Howells, 20, and Michaela Ross, 17, keeping watch for most of the week, while Denmark Surf Life Saving Club volunteers help patrol on weekends.

Between December 12, 2011 and January 31, 2012 almost 11,000 people visited the beach, with lifeguards carrying out 64 preventative actions and 11 rescues.

Experienced lifeguard Patrick McCarthy, who acts as a mentor for the young duo as well as taking up patrolling duties, said they aimed to increase beach-user safety through the “prevention is better than a cure” philosophy.

“The flags are always placed in the safest swimming area, and any requests by lifeguards are in the best interests of the masses,” he said.

“We want beach patrons to come and have a chat and a laugh with the lifeguards and make the beach experience safe and enjoyable.”

Mr McCarthy said Denmark’s lifeguards were all local and offered expert knowledge of the beach they patrol; however, he warned people visiting unpatrolled beaches to exercise extreme caution.

“Many Great Southern beaches are too treacherous for even the best swimmers,” he said.

“If you are unsure of conditions, be sensible with your capabilities and ask other beach users what areas to avoid.”

Last year City of Albany lifeguards recorded almost 36,000 beach visits between Middleton Beach and Emu Point from December 5, 2011 to January 31, 2012.

Cornwall resident Jason Walsh has returned to patrol the popular town beach for the second year running, this time alongside Denmark’s Ethan Stewart.

Together they will patrol five days a week until January 25.

Despite ongoing works on the Albany Surf Life Saving Club, full-time patrols continue undisturbed until January 28.

Club president Rob Lucas said the City of Albany had kindly provided additional toilets and an outdoor shower for people to use during the summer holiday period.

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