A community approach to surfing safety is being sought on North Stradbroke Island following a series of near tragedies at Frenchman’s Beach in the past month.
Point Lookout surf club president Sean Fallon said the incidents highlighted the need for safety, signage and conversation at unpatrolled and closed beaches on the island.
“We need better signage, but even so, signage doesn’t stop people. This calls for an all-of-community approach. Beach conditions could be announced on the ferry and when the people get off the bus at an unpatrolled beach, maybe the bus driver or someone from the community could warn them, especially if they are tourists who don’t know the danger. This is Stradbroke. There will always be an open beach somewhere where people can go to swim,” Mr Fallon said.
Mr Fallon said that on Sunday, March 18 surf lifesavers were lucky to revive a 12-year-old girl who was found floating face down in the water. He said the girl was one of a family of five from Brisbane who he believed chose the beach for privacy reasons without full knowledge of the danger the surf presented.
He said the girl was taken by ambulance then airlifted to the Lady Cilento hospital where she recovered and was discharged two days later.
“I don’t think the family realise how close we were to not recovering five bodies,” he said.
“This is not a patrolled beach. On the day, the conditions were wild. Point Lookout beach was closed but Frenchman’s is the worst part of the beach with a permanent current that takes you straight out to sea. It’s dangerous once you get past your knees,” he said.
Mr Fallon said that many people stopped at Frenchmans Beach because it was so picturesque.
“Just take a photo and have a look, but don’t go in,” he said.
He said that on April 7, two surf lifesavers put their own lives in danger to rescue a 15 and 16 year old who were swept out to sea from the same place.
“It was a difficult rescue. Our boys had to go a fair way out to stop our boat rolling over. There was a two metre wash and a 20 knot wind. There was fear for the driver and the crew, but they executed a perfect rescue. The teenagers didn’t have much longer,” he said.
Mr Fallon said the boy was taken to Dunwich hospital for observation after feinting after the rescue.
Mr Fallon said he had put in for a heroic award for surf lifesavers David Westby and Ollie Meyer.