Brendon Prince: Why Torbay must look to securing a lifeguard provision

Torbay Surf Life Saving Club teaching lifeguards

Torbay Surf Life Saving Club teaching lifeguards - Credit: Archant

Torbay is not just a very special place, it's world class.

Lifeguard board in the surf at Goodrington

Lifeguard board in the surf at Goodrington - Credit: Archant

The geology of the region is so unique we are a UNESCO Global Geopark but you may struggle to understand this unless you see Torbay from the sea.

From this angle, the Bay comes alive due to the many different rock and cliff formations.

Limestone, slates, mudstones, alluvium and even diabase at Anstey's form some spectacular beaches, coves and even an arched bridge!

Our coastline always delivers an experience with every adventure.

Above Water teaching �float to stay safe� at Paignton Library

Above Water teaching �float to stay safe� at Paignton Library - Credit: Archant

A visiting friend from Torquay, Australia, said to me last year: 'Strewth, you must be stoked to live here!' and I really am 'stoked' to live here.

I'm passionate about promoting the Bay from the water and with this, water safety for us all.

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My Australian friend also couldn't believe we didn't have lifeguards on our glorious coast. We didn't have lifeguards on the beaches when visiting a packed Goodrington beach on a high tide with the sun out.

This might be something you have also asked. Why don't we have lifeguards?

Brendon Prince, founder of Above Water

Brendon Prince, founder of Above Water - Credit: Archant

Torbay benefits from having three sides, three sides of coastline looking in on 62 km2 of water.

Thankfully, this often means there is someone looking in to spot any trouble.

Also, with so much commercial and recreational traffic, there is, hopefully, someone who can give a rescuing hand on the water.

I call this the 'Bay safety', unfortunately, this doesn't translate to cases of no drowning.

Only last year, Torbay experienced the perfect storm of a big easterly swell with 25 degrees' sunshine.

Countless rescues were made, by sea and air, resulting in souls lost and hospitalised.

Could lifeguards, on Torbay beaches, have made a difference?

It is a fact that our beaches and the Bay are becoming busier.

Stay-at-home holidays and the accessibility of the water through more water activities are seeing greater numbers on and in the water, numbers I have not seen in my 25 years in Torbay.

Can we rely on the 'Bay safety' or do we need to act now to stop accidental drowning and the massive costs of rescues?

I believe Torbay has a duty of care to its residents and visitors.

We want to promote the Bay for its truly unique coastline and stunning environment.

We want Torbay to be recognised not only nationally but international for a long list of activities from sailing to sand castles, from dipping your toe into 'Blue Flag waters' to open-water swimming.

Torbay must look to securing a lifeguard provision as the volume of people now using and visiting our Bay deserves this layer of safety cover.

The charity Above Water conducted a stand up paddle board safety survey at Meadfoot beach, asking 100 paddle boarders 23 questions about water safety.

One question asked if they knew what to do to stay safe on a stand up paddle board? The answers were shocking- yes, 33 per cent and no, 67 per cent. That equates to 67 people on the water relying on 'Torbay safety'.

The majority of the general public cannot be relied on to keep themselves safe in or on the water.

Above Water, the water safety through education charity, is training teachers, pupils and parents in water safety and drowning prevention.

Until such time as we have a national understanding of water safety on this island nation, through better water safety education, we need lifeguards to prevent incidents, provide rescue and ensure emergency care on this world class coastline.

Here are a few keys points to help you stay safe in the Bay:

• never go out alone, always with a buddy

• check the weather, tides, conditions, specific warnings- RIPs, pollution, strong winds

• remember to stop, look and listen so you can adapt your activity to suit the conditions in front of you

• acclimatise your body properly to the water conditions

• check your equipment

• plan an escape route with your buddy.

These are the actions you will undertake to be safely back on dry land in an emergency.