Saturday, 1 March 2014

Safety First at State Champs

If the competitors at the NSW Surf Life Saving Championships thought it was cold on the beach, they should spare a thought for the long-suffering Water Safety volunteers who braved some pretty bad weather to keep almost 3500 young competitors safe this weekend.

A visit to the quagmire which is ‘The Compound’ gives a rare insight into a much less glamorous aspect of the state’s premier surf sports event. The Compound is where a small, but important band of blokes manage around 120 volunteer powercraft operators a day who turn up for their shift driving or crewing an Inflatable Rescue Boat or jetski.

Safety is paramount at large events such as the State Championships and the Water Safety contingent plays a vital role in the conduct of the carnival. Each club at the event provides water safety based on the numbers of competitors they have entered. This year, the Powercraft team reported a much-improved response from clubs, with everyone turning up on time to fulfil their roster commitments.

Compound Coordinator, Neil Whittaker, (‘Whit’) says while the conditions this weekend have been challenging, he hasn’t heard any of the Water Safety volunteers complain.

“We know it’s not much fun sometimes, bobbing around in the duck for hours in the rain, but we need to make sure all our competitors are safe at all times,” said Whit.

Back at the Compound it’s not been much fun either, with tents blowing down in the wind, bogged forklifts and the smell of outboard fuel hanging thick in the wet air.

The team works hard to stay positive, keeping the jokes and banter up along with a fair amount of sledging. Changa, Humbo, Hoges, Bursty, Rocket - everyone has a nickname, including the team’s newest recruit, ‘Red Dog’.  Red Dog is standing in this year for the Compound’s usual hound, a brown Kelpie imaginatively named ‘Brownie’.

Jokes aside though, all the volunteers who give their time to ensure the safety of our competitors should be congratulated and are a vital part of the event logistics. Spare them a thought next time carnival conditions aren’t great.

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