Superman’s life is the best result in the George Bass Surfboat Marathon

Wayne "Superman" Kent whose life was saving on day 1 of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon. Photo: Ian Campbell
Wayne “Superman” Kent whose life was saved on day 1 of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon. Photo: Ian Campbell

Perhaps the best result in the 2018 George Bass Surfboat Marathon is that Wayne “Superman” Kent is still alive.

The 66-year-old member of Pambula Surf Life Saving Club started the epic race in Batemans Bay on New Year’s Eve, 31km’s later as “Super” was helping pull his boat ashore at South Head, Moruya his heart stopped.

“The bloke was dead when he was brought up the sand,” Dr Steve Craig says.

“Through the excellent work and training of the surf life-saving members, they got the defibrillator on him very quickly, we were able to get his heart going again and he left the beach alive.”

Dr Craig who works out of Moruya and Nowra Hospitals was rowing as part of the Open Men’s crew from Mollymook Surf Life Saving Club and was quick to come to the aid of Super, as was Victorian firefighter Cassie Lee Field rowing for the Torquay Masters Women, nurse Lea Henry from the Grange crew out of South Australia, and Pambula clubies Andrew Holt and Matthew Harvey.

Lifesavers on patrol with Moruya Surf Club also played a critical role in beating away death until paramedics from NSW Ambulance arrived.

Super was taken to Moruya Hospital and shortly after flown to Canberra where a pacemaker was inserted in his chest.

Five days later Wayne Kent, who takes his nickname from Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, was there at Pambula Beach to cheer his clubmates across the line on day six of the race. At the awards presentation that afternoon the crowd erupted as Super spoke of his experience.

“If it had happened out at sea god knows what would have happened, I would have hated to put the crew through that, they are a good bunch of blokes,” Super says.

“I am so lucky it happened on the beach because I had 240 odd rowers around me – all life-savers and if anyone was going to kick the bucket on that day they would have had to have been really gone.”

Scare tissue from previous heart bypass surgery is thought to have been a factor in Super’s heart failure.

Twenty-five surfboats and thirteen surf skis started the 7 day, 190km George Bass, the finish line at Snug Cove in Eden seemed a long way away when Super hit the sand at the end of day one, his brush with death pointing to the challenges ahead for the bodies taking part.

“My intention was just to drive the [boat] trailer around for them, but the boys couldn’t find a sweep, so the next thing you know I was in for another year,” Super laughs.

The 66-year-old can’t remember when he first took part in the Bass, sometime in the 1990’s is his best guess, over the years he has been a rower, sweep, and coach.

Dr Steve Craig, who helped save "Super's" life at Moruya Beach. Steve was also rowing for Mollymook in the George Bass Surfboat Marathon. Photo: Les Herstik
Dr Steve Craig, who helped save “Super’s” life at Moruya Beach. Steve was also rowing for Mollymook in the George Bass Surfboat Marathon. Photo: Les Herstik

Dr Steve Craig says he’ll be writing a letter of commendation to the volunteer surf life-savers from Moruya that stepped up when Super went down.

“They just clicked over into their training and by doing so within two or three minutes we had his heart started again,” Dr Craig says.

Life and death aside, in the overall point score presented after Saturday’s final leg from Pambula to Eden, the winning crews were the Bulli Open Men, North Cronulla Open Women, North Cronulla Masters Men, Pambula Masters Women, Tathra Vet Men, and Avalon Beach Vet Women.

In the ski paddle race, Wollongong’s Paul Buttle was the winner, while Narooma’s Nick Ziviani and Joe Halsey took out the double ski division.

Still keen to be apart of the George Bass community, Super says he’d like to support Pambula’s place in the race but only as part of the support crew on land.

“I am married to a great woman who has turned into a rottweiler, she is making sure I am following all the doctor’s instructions and I don’t think she’ll let me compete again,” Super says.

“I was gone, I am one of the luckiest men in Australia.”

The 21st George Bass Surfboat Marathon runs December 29, 2019, to January 4, 2020.

*About Regional content is supported by members, thank you to Tathra Beach House Apartments, Sprout Eden – cafe and local produce, Robyn Broughton, Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg, Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, and Kym Mogridge.

*Video above created by Dr Matthew Nott

*Ian Campbell travelled as a guest of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon

George Bass Surfboat Marathon – bluebottle tangles on day two

Paul Jones leading the Bulli Open Mens home. Photo: Les Herstik.
Paul Jones leading the Bulli Open Men home. Photo: Les Herstik.

Day two of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon was a slog, with the events 25 entries having to punch through a stiff southerly breeze and swell to make it to Coila Beach at Tuross.

The 18km leg started with a tribute to a stalwart of the Moruya Surf Club and the Bass, Lesley Pheeney.

Lesley was the race secretary for many years and worked side by side with her late husband, Dave in the Far South Coast Surf Lifesaving Association. Lesley and Dave have been reunited at sea, with a salute from Bass crews who raised their oars into the sky for one minute silence.

Fresh from New Year Eve celebrations, competitors in the George Bass Surf Ski Marathon were the first to set off. Pambula’s Jacqui Keogh, the only woman in the ski race was forced to retire with a broken rudder in the testing conditions.

Around one and a half hours later the ski fleet was returning to shore. Narooma’s Nick Ziviani and Joe Halsey in their duel ski the first home followed by Brendan Cowled and Tony Ireland.

Day two, single ski results:

First – Paul Buttle (1:33:24)
Second – John Pattison
Third – Nick Kirby
Fourth – Stephen Bunney
Fifth – Simon Stenhouse
Sixth – Gavin Granger
Seventh – David Schofield
Eighth – Craig Vipond
Ninth – Nathan Vipond
Tenth –  Warwick Ward
Eleventh – Jacqui Keough (DNF)

Nathan Vipond headed for the beach. Photo: Les Herstik
Nathan Vipond headed for the beach. Photo: Les Herstik

A large, supportive crowd packed the walkway and headland overlooking Coila Beach to welcome the surfboats home, locals and holidaymakers impressed with the ticker of competitors who over the course of seven days will row to Eden, 188km away.

The Bulli Open Mens crew put in another dominant performance overtaking the entire fleet. The club is vying for its forth consecutive overall win.

Paul Jones is Bulli sweep and is competing in his eighth Bass, “It was a tough day, the wind got up earlier than expected, luckily it was a shorter day,” he says.

Bluebottles added to the challenge, with rowers getting tangled in the stingers during their changeovers at seas. Fresh rowers in some boats forging on with blue tentacles wrapped around arms, legs, and necks.

Those changeovers at sea are a critical part of the race, how and when they happen is up to each crew.

“We try not to lose boat speed,” Paul says.

“We get two guys to jump out while the two guys left in the boat keep rowing, the other guys need to get in as best they can, but we don’t want the boat stopping dead.”

Day two, Open Men results:

First – Bulli (2:00:55)
Second – Coogee
Third – Mollymook
Fourth – Long Reef
Fifth – Pambula

Day two, Open Women results:

First – North Cronulla (2:08:45)
Second – Broulee
Third – Moruya
Fourth – Broulee Canberra Capital

Day two, Masters Men results:

First – North Cronulla (2:02:11)
Second – Narooma
Third – Wollongong City
Fourth – Grange SA
Fifth – Tathra
Sixth – Wanda
Seventh – Noosa Qls
Eighth – Broulee Canberra Capitals
Ninth – Bulli
Tenth  – Pambula
Eleventh – Warriewood

Day two, Masters Women results:

First – Pambula (2:23:48)
Second – Torquay Vic
Third – Avalon Beach
Fourth – Darwin NT
Fifth – Broulee

The Darwin Womens Master crew, rowing in a boat borrowed from Bermagui SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik.
The Darwin Womens Masters crew, rowing in a boat borrowed from Bermagui SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik.

The end of the race was a stark contrast to the drama of yesterday.

Marathon organiser Andrew Edmunds says crews are relieved to hear the the 66-year-old male sweep from Pambula who had a heart attack on the finish line at Moruya is improving in hospital.

“He is currently awaiting surgery and we hope he’ll be out of hospital in a few days,” Andrew says.

“The situation highlighted how everyone participating in this event are surf lifesavers first and competitors second, with the Pambula crew, a Grange competitor, a rower from Mollymook and Moruya lifesavers all clicking into action as soon as the emergency situation arose.”

Most crews took the opportunity to rest one or two members today,  as they will most days now ahead of the finish in Eden on January 6.

Day 3 starts off Coila Beach, with the skis setting off at 8:30am and 9am, followed by the surfboats at five-minute intervals. The finish line is 22km away in front of Narooma Surf Club, the first competitors are expected to arrive one to two hours after the start.

You can stay in touch with the field via the George Bass Live Tracker.

For more photos head to the George Bass Facebook page.

*Ian Campbell is traveling as a guest of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon.

George Bass Surfboat Marathon – man in hospital after day one

The crew from Wanda Surf Club near Cronulla, finished first in the Masters Men. Photo: Les Herstik
The crew from Wanda Surf Club near Cronulla, finished second in the Masters Men. Photo: Les Herstik

The first day of the George Bass Surf Boat Marathon took a twist at the Moruya finish line, one that points to the challenges of the great race.

The 66-year-old sweep of the Pambula Men’s Masters crew had a heart attack and was revived on the beach.

“Volunteers on patrol with Mourya Surf Club responded quickly and a doctor rowing for Mollymook all stepped up to look after the man before paramedics arrived,” Andrew Edmunds, Race Director says.

“He has since been flown to hospital and all those involved have been involved in a debriefing session, our people are the most important thing about the Bass.”

Jacqui Keogh from Pambula SLSC, the only woman competing in the surf ski marathon. Photo: Les Herstik
Jacqui Keogh from Pambula SLSC, the only woman competing in the surf ski marathon. Photo: Les Herstik

The medical emergency came on the back of what had been a successful day on the water, crews tackling the 31 kilometres of coastline between the Batemans Bay Bridge and Mourya Beach at South Head.

“NSW Maritime and Water Police gave competitors a gold star for safety,” Andrew says.

“Yes this is a race and everyone is keen to win, but safety comes first.”

Tony Ireland is one of thirteen entries in the Surf Ski Marathon, Tony is paddling as one of two duel surf ski entries and was among the first to hit the Moruya sand with his mate Brendan Cowled.

“It was quite challenging, especially the last bit from Broulee to home, it felt like we were pushing against the current the whole way,” Tony says.

The southerly winds at the start weren’t a problem for Tony and Brendan, who stuck close to the coast and enjoyed some helpful currents in close.

Single ski results:

First – John Pattinson
Second – Paul Buttle
Third – Nick Kirby
Fourth – Simon Steinhouse
Fifth – Warrick Ward
Sixth – Stephen Bunney
Seventh – Gavin Granger
Eighth – Craig Vipond
Ninth – Dave Schofield
Tenth –  Nathan Vipond
Eleventh – Jacqui Keough *Only women, go Jacqui!

Double ski results:

First –  Nick Ziviani and Joe Hasley
Second –  Brendan Cowled and Tony Island.

Today's office… The start of the George Bass Marathon in Batemans Bay.

Posted by Rebecca Henshaw on Saturday, 30 December 2017

 

There were big smiles from family, friends, and supporters when the surfboats started to pull in two to three hours after they started on the Clyde River.

Michelle from the Broulee Bluebottles is competing in her seventh Bass and was beaming despite being greeted by her crew’s namesake at the finish line.

“The feeling after is great and why I keep doing it, about 20 minutes into this morning I didn’t think so, but now it’s great, I love it,” Michelle says.

Masters Women results:

First – Pambula
Second – Broulee Bluebottles
Third – Darwin NT
Fourth – Torquay Vic
Fifth – Avalon Beach

Open Women results:

First – North Cronulla
Second – Broulee
Third – Broulee/Canberra Capitals
Fourth – Moruya

Open Men results:

First – Bulli
Second – Long Reef
Third – Coogee
Fourth – Mollymook
Fifth – Pambula

Masters Men results:

First – North Cronulla
Second – Wanda
Third – Tathra
Fourth – Narooma
Fifth – Wollongong City
Sixth – Broulee Capitals
Seventh – Pambula
Eighth – Bulli
Ninth – Grange SA
Tenth  – Noosa Qld
Eleventh – Warriewood

Four in four out, a crew change for Tathra SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik
Four in four out, a crew change for Tathra SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik

Headed into New Year’s Eve all crews seemed keen for an early night at their Moruya High School campground, day two starts back at Moruya Beach at 9am for the 18km run to Coila Beach at Tuross. The first competitors are expected to arrive between one and two hours later.

You can stay in touch with the field via the George Bass Live Tracker.

For more photos from day one head to the George Bass Facebook page.

Video above from Livefire – IT, Digital Media, Social Media Marketing

*Ian Campbell is traveling as a guest of the George Bass Surf Boat Marathon.

Dual sex sea creatures swamp Far South Coast beaches

Bluebottles at North Durras. Photo: Christa White Facebook
Bluebottles at North Durras. Photo: Christa White Facebook

Locals and visitors have been returning beaches along the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley coastline, the chill of winter replaced with the temptation of a swim under big, bright, blue skies.

But that springtime enthusiasm has been tempered on some beaches with the mass arrival of familiar but alien looking creatures – Bluebottles.

Not one creature but many, these duel sex visitors to Far South Coast beaches are a collegiate group each with a job to do before being blown ashore.

“I love bluebottles, they’re awesome,” says Kerryn Wood, Manager of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden.

“They’re actually a colony of several animals, all with specialised functions – feeding, catching prey, and reproduction.

“Fascinating!” Kerryn says.

A tangle of Bluebottles. Photo: Colin Eacott Facebook
A tangle of Bluebottles. Photo: Colin Eacott Facebook

According to the Australian Museum, the Bluebottle is a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals known as zooids, and come from the same family of life that includes coral and sea anemones.

“The zooids are dependent on one another for survival.

“The float (pneumatophore) is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.

“The tentacles (dactylozooids) are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps (gastrozooids).

“Reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, another type of polyp,” The Museum says.

Generally speaking, northerly winds bring Bluebottles onto local beaches.

“There have also been some pretty big seas lately,” Ms Wood says.

The beauty of Bluebotlles. Photo: Jackie Saunders Facebook
The beauty of Bluebotlles. Photo: Jackie Saunders Facebook

The Bluebottles famous float can grow to over 15cm, it’s job is to sail the colony across the ocean surface capturing the breeze with its aerodynamic shape. A degree of muscular contraction in its crest gives the Bluebottle a sense and skill similar to a holidaying windsurfer.

Local surfboat crews training for January’s George Bass Surfboat Marathon are reporting large “schools” of Bluebottles bobbing about at sea.

“The float may project either to the left or to the right; the left-handed forms sail to the right of the wind and vice versa,” The Australian Museum explains.

“Thus, if the sailing angle of one form leads to its stranding on the shore, the others sailing to the opposite side of the wind may escape.”

A neat survival trick that maintains the population even when Far South Coast beaches are blanketed in dried and popping specimens.

Food and reproduction drive life and Bluebottles have some impressive tools to call on.

Their stinging tentacles drift downwind for up to one metre capturing food in their wake, responding swiftly to the presence of food, they twist and tangle prey, and “become all mouth” to digest their meal.

A range of enzymes are deployed to break down proteins, carbs, and fats across a menu of small crustaceans and surface plankton.

Reproduction is another impressive Bluebottle trick that helps it’s species survive on the high-seas.

Bluebottles are hermaphrodites, they carry female and male parts.

“Awesome, I love that so many marine creatures are hermaphrodites,” Ms Wood says.

“And sometimes they’ll wash up on the beach with a variety of other really beautiful ‘blue’ animals like Glacus atlanticus or the Blue Sea Dragon – also hermaphrodites.

“The Glaucus atlanticus actually eat blue bottles and ‘steal’ their poison, making them even more poisonous!” Ms Wood says.

The Glaucus atlanticus, AKA Blue Dragon, eats Bluebottles. Photo: Commons Wikki
The Glaucus atlanticus, AKA Blue Dragon, eats Bluebottles. Photo: Commons Wikki

All this is very interesting but from a human perspective, avoiding the stingers and knowing what to do if stung is front of mind during a day at the beach.

Andrew Edmunds from the Far South Coast Surf Lifesaving Association says northeasterly winds and swells in particular bring Bluebottles on to beaches between Batemans Bay and Eden.

“Avoiding north-east facing beaches in those conditions might help families dodge Bluebottles,” Mr Edmunds says.

“The best treatment for a sting is hot water, a shower as hot as you can without burning does the trick.

“And if hot water isn’t available ice is a good alternative in relieving the pain after you have washed the tentacles away,” Mr Edmunds advises.

“Swimming at a patrolled beach this summer will ensure that first aid is close at hand from lifesavers.”

And be aware beachcombers, as thousands of Bluebottles lay shipwrecked on local beaches the toxic mixture they use to immobilise and digest their prey is still active and can sting you, however the contractions that trap their marine victims becomes inactive.

Bluebottles are awesome, the sting they can inject into a day at the beach instinctively demands our respect, but so to should their survival skills.

*Become a member of About Regional and support local news and stories, thank you to the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Linda Albertson, Julia Stiles, Ali Oakley, Rosemary Lord, and Simon Marnie.

*Large elements of this article originally appeared on Riot ACT.

“The best summer ever” at Tathra Beach – Tony McCabe, lifeguard

Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach
Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach

The final days of the 2016/17 summer on Tathra Beach have been some of the season’s best, perhaps ‘the best ever’ according to longtime lifeguard Tony McCabe.

The water temp through most of January and February sat at around 21-22 degrees.

“We’ve had the best water temperature I can remember in 25 years,” Tony says.

Tony struggles to remember just how many summers he’s seen on the clean sands of Tathra, but thinks it’s about 41.

“For a couple of years I was down at Aslings Beach, I’ve had a season at Main, and I’ve done a few up at Camel Rock, but Tathra is my favourite,” Tony says.

Tex Glover was the man that started Tony’s professional career on the beach.

“He use to actually sleep in the surf club, he’d get up in the morning, sometimes a bit late and as young guys we’d come and put the flags out for Tex,” Tony remembers.

“He was a bit of a legend down here at the time and I sort of hung out with Tex for a fair while and then took over the mantle from him.”

Tony believe’s Tex is still going strong and is fitter than ever living in Canberra.

When Tony did his first patrol at around the age of 18, the belt and reel were still being used to rescue swimmers from the surf.

“You had to be a very strong swimmer because a lot of times you were towing 150 – 200 metres of line behind you.

“Then the guys on the reel would have to pull you back in, the guys on the line had to be strong as well,” Tony explains.

Like old Tex Glover before him, at almost 60 Tony is now inspiring the next generation of lifeguards.

“I enjoy training other guards and keeping the standard up.

“I just like to see the young people coming through, they’re enthusiastic and I just hope I can implant a little bit of my wisdom into them,” Tony says.

Click play, Tony talks about his time on Tathra Beach and what to do with blue bottle stings…

 

While keeping the public safe is the thrust of the job, Tony and his young team this summer have also become tourism ambassadors pointing people towards good coffee and a feed.

“It’s a great beach where you can meet people and tell’em a little bit about the area,” Tony says.

“A lot of families come back here, they just book year after year.

“All the locals embrace the tourists that come down here, it’s a really friendly area,” Tony says.

That relaxed easy approach can also open up discussion around surf safety.

“With rips, if they (swimmers) don’t know, they come down to the beach, they have a look at the big waves, and they see the calmer water, and think we’ll stay away from the big waves and jump in the calmer waters,” Tony says.

Tathra Beach looking north.
Tathra Beach looking north.

Not realising that the calmer water is often the rip.

“We’ve had a fair few overseas people here this year and they have just had no idea, and they have really appreciated that we have pointed out where the rip is,” Tony says.

The laid back look and nature of the paid and volunteer lifeguards at Tathra masks the dramatic twists and turns their day can take at any time.

“Sometimes the days you think are going to be your calmest, you have issues,” Tony says.

Tragically this summer a rock fisherman from Canberra died after being swept off rocks to the south of Tathra beach at Kianinny. Being a Saturday volunteers were on duty and responded.

“We have had to hop in the rescue boat and shoot down to Games Bay down near Wallagoot, where someone walking with their wife and baby trod on a stingray and couldn’t go anywhere so we had to go down and assist them.”

Over the years Tony also recalls drownings at the Bega River mouth, rescues at Nelson’s Beach 8km north of Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club, boats that break down, injuries at the nearby skate bowl, and heart attacks at the bowling club across the road.

“Only on Friday we had a lady bring a baby in from Turingal Head who had been stung by a blue bottle, and someone said get down to Tathra, the lifeguards are on duty during February, and she was ecstatic that we were able to help,” Tony explains.

“It’s not just sitting looking at the water, it’s all those other things that happen while you are down here.”

One of the big talking points of summer 2016/17 was the shape and look of Tathra Beach following June’s East Coast Low.

The wide strip of golden sand in front of the surf club was sucked away, creating an amphitheater overlooking the red and yellow flags and reducing the space people could claim as their own.

“We were really worried when we first started patrol, at high tide there is very little beach in front of the surf club,” Tony says.

“We were worried people would move further up the beach (away from the flags) where there is more room.”

Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job
Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job

To Tony’s relief most people this year did the right thing and swum between the flags even though they were pushed further up the beach.

This bronzed, buff veteran is confident the beach will recover from being chewed up by the storms of June.

“It will come back, but it will be over a long period,” Tony says.

Generally Tony describes Tathra as a pretty safe beach.

“Down in the corner we normally have a reasonably sized sandbar, and even though we do get north-east winds that blows in a bit of a swell, we get a southerly change and the swell only lasts for maybe one of two days and it levels out,” Tony explains.

“As you get further round towards the Country Club or further up the beach it’s a lot more dangerous, down in the corner it’s usually pretty safe.”

With the days of summer starting to shorten, Tony is called south again to Melbourne and his regular job as a carpenter.

Born and bred not too far from the Bega Swimming Pool, Tony is already preparing for his 42nd Tathra summer.

“We’ll be back up at Easter, followed by the yearly lifeguard testing in December.

“You jump in the water, it’s sunny, it’s clear, you have a swim around, and you get out, the salt water, it’s a fantastic feeling,” Tony says.

 

 

Disclaimer: Author is currently contracted to Tathra Chamber of Commerce 

 

 

Yellow buoys off Merimbula and Malua Bay listening for sharks

Shark listening station - Malua Bay, supplied DPI.
Shark listening station – Malua Bay, supplied DPI.

The sapphire waters of the Far South Coast naturally draw your attention – forever changing, forever surprising.

This summer, just below Batemans Bay at Maula Bay and further south at Merimbula, a tall yellow buoy beyond the last line of breakers will catch your eye as your bum finds that sweet spot in the sand.

It’s a Shark Listening Station or VR4G, installed during November before the place filled up with holiday makers.

The one off Main Beach Merimbula brings the number of listening stations along the New South Wales coastline to twenty, all designed to give our feeble bodies the jump on these ‘monsters of the deep.’

Other locations include Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Bondi, Byron Bay, Ballina and Lennox Head.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says these satellite-linked VR4G receivers record the presence of tagged sharks swimming within 500 metres of the listening station.

“Information on the movement of tagged sharks captured on the VR4Gs goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to mobile devices via Twitter and the SharkSmart App.” he explains.

There are 114 White Sharks and 88 Bull Sharks that have been tagged by either the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or CSIRO. These are the beasties that give themselves away when they swim near one of these hi-tech posts.

“Whilst we can’t tag every shark, the new listening stations will enhance bather safety by alerting beachgoers and authorities when a tagged shark is in the area,” Mr Constance says.

“They provide beachgoers with information and knowledge to help them assess their risk of a shark encounter before they hit the water.”

Shark at Bournda Island December 25,from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Shark at Bournda Island December 25, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

The technology is one component of the NSW Government’s $16m Shark Management Strategy and follows a run of fatal and near-fatal shark attacks in northern NSW during 2016.

Other parts of the strategy being seen locally include regular DPI helicopter patrols running between Kiama and Eden, and soon a new $33,000 viewing platform overlooking Pambula Beach.

Since the aerial patrols and listening stations became active seven local shark sightings have been reported to the Shark Smart App – all south of the Bega River mouth at Tathra.

The first alert on December 17 pointed to four Whaler Sharks near Bar Beach Merimbula, and two unidentified 2 metre sharks off Pambula Beach – both spotted by the DPI aerial team.

The most recent alert was sent out on December 29 with the helicopter reporting up to eight juvenile Bronze Whaler Sharks off Main Beach Merimbula.

In all cases, nearby authorities were notified and it was assessed that there was little threat to swimmers and surfers – sometimes simply because there was no one in the water.

If there is deemed to be a risk to people, lifesavers on the beach or the aerial patrol have the capacity to clear the water of swimmers.

Looking further north to the Shoalhaven, 13 shark alerts have been trigger during the same time frame around Ulladulla and Jervis Bay. On the Central and North Coasts, where there is a more intensive monitoring effort, 60 alerts have been issued taking in beaches between Lake Macquarie and Tweed Heads.

Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

Broulee’s Andrew Edmunds, Director, Far South Coast Surf Life Saving says his organisation welcomes anything that helps lifesavers manage risk and allows people to make informed choices.

“Sharks are not the biggest risk to swimmers though,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Since the start of summer, we have had 18 deaths in New South Wales waters, none have been a result of shark interaction,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Unpatrolled beaches, rips and strong currents, not wearing life-jackets, unsupervised pools, ponds, and dams – these are the biggest risks.”

Mr Edmunds is hoping the listening stations might ease people’s concern about sharks.

“People will start to see sharks in the natural environment as normal,” he says.

“The frequency of the alerts will increase over time as more sharks are tagged, people might start to realise how commonplace sharks are.”

Shark Smart alerts as there appear on Twitter
Shark Smart alerts as they appear on Twitter

The yellow VR4G units sit high in the water and have been somewhat of a curiosity to beachgoers this summer with lifesavers taking regular questions.

“Stand-up paddle boarders have also been going out and back to investigate,” Mr Edmunds says.

The odds of being attacked or killed by a shark are said to be 1 in 3,748,067, despite the regularity of their presence in our environment that Mr Edumnds points to.

Those long odds however, are easily challenged by our active imaginations, fed by frequent news reports from the North Coast pointing to surfers bitten or killed and White Sharks snared in drum lines.

The tall yellow buoys that now sit out the front of Merimbula and Malua Bay not only highlight the physical presence of sharks but also our fragile minds when it comes to these creatures.