For the last 3 summers, businesses in Tathra and Bega have worked together to fund a beach safety program that has kept the famous red and yellow flags flying on Tathra Beach during February.
Our golden strip of sand has been the only beach south of Ulladulla with a 7-day-a-week lifeguard service during the final month of summer.
To build on the reputation Tathra has with grey nomads and young families at this magic time of year, the Tathra and District Business Chamber is once again seeking financial support from local businesses and organisations to keep the flags flying in 2018.
“February is a big month in Tathra, many young families and retirees are attracted to our beautiful beach after the busy school holiday period,” Chamber Vice President, Rob White says.
“The feedback from holidaymakers is always terrific, it’s clear that people come to Tathra during February because they know our beach is patrolled, this extends our summer and gives Tathra a point of difference,” Rob says.
Locals know that February is the best time of year on our beaches, daily temperatures are similar to January, but the water is warmer and the winds lighter.
Lifeguards employed by Bega Valley Shire Council keep watch over beach goers Monday to Friday during the summer school holidays, complimenting the outstanding volunteer effort each weekend from Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.
“But once school goes back after Australia Day the Council service stops, leaving visitors to our town and members of our community at risk,” Rob says.
“Council considered working with us to extend their service into February to take the pressure off the community fundraising effort, but we have been told they don’t have the budget.”
The Chamber is now hoping to raise the $13,000 needed to keep professional life guards on Tathra Beach, Monday to Friday from January 29 until February 23.
Secretary of the Chamber, Carmen Risby says the results speak for themselves.
“The extended beach patrols on Tathra Beach during February last year meant that lifeguards were on hand to perform 14 rescues,” Carman says.
“Our stats show that lifeguards kept watch over approximately 6200 people on Tathra Beach during weekdays last February.”
Businesses who take part will receive significant media exposure, and generate tremendous goodwill within the local community.
Thank you to the businesses who have already made a commitment – Tathra Big4, Tathra Beachside, Tathra & District Business Chamber, Tathra Beach House, Tathra Beach Bowling Club, Bendigo Bank, and Tathra Hotel. More are needed to keep the flags flying.
Please contact Rob White at Tathra Beach House Apartments for further information on becoming a business or organisation sponsor – firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 6499 9900.
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.
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.”
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
While keeping an eye on swimmers, Dr Nott was reading ‘The Weather Makers‘ by Tim Flannery, a look at the history and catastrophic future impacts of a warming planet.
And a warming planet we have.
The region’s run of beautiful beaches and cool mountain streams will offer blessed respite as South East NSW heads into a week of warm days, with forecast top temperatures above 30 degrees every day for most centres.
The sweaty weather is no surprise, it’s January, a month where records are set. But it coincides with news that 2016 was the world’s hottest year on record, due to the continuing influence of global warming according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Dr Nott says he remains committed to the cause of addressing global warming eleven years after that famous beach patrol but despairs that people and governments fail to respond to the mounting science.
“It’s really so terribly clear that we are hurtling towards an environmental disaster,” he says.
“That’s going to be something that has an enormous impact on my kids.”
Dr Nott is frustrated by but appreciates the fact that many people don’t understand or ignore the science.
“People think about climate change in the [same] way they think about death,” Dr Nott says.
“They think it’s a long way away and I am not going to think about it now.
“I find that really frustrating because that’s putting my kids future at risk,” he says.
There’s no hiding from the science for those who will inherit the future.
Like CEFE, the AYCC recognises the opportunities climate change presents, while also warning of the total fossil fuels take on our future.
The impacts include rising sea levels and more extreme weather events and the myriad of human, environmental and security challenges that follow.
The opportunities include cleaner cheaper power production using renewable energy sources.
The understanding youth have for this issue was further highlighted to me in the run up to New Years Day 2017, when my eldest son produced a poem – at the pushing and pulling of his Bega based English tutor Elizabeth Blackmore.
by Jim Campbell, 14 years
I am the meanest thing on earth yet also the calmest
I have seen changes that no human could imagine
I was here at the beginning
And I will be here at the end
I am the most powerful on this earth
Nothing rivals me
Why do you kill me? Yet you wouldn’t be alive without me
I am getting bigger
With every factory you build
With every atom that you let go
Very soon I will crack and destroy everything
I will rule again just like I did
A few billion years ago
I am the sea
Jim was just three years old when CEFE went about installing solar panels on community buildings around South East NSW.
Every community building in Tathra now generates it’s own power and puts the excess back into the grid. Countless Rural Fire Service sheds, surf life-saving clubs, community halls, and schools in other towns now do the same, all with the backing of CEFE.
Eleven years on similar projects continue, building towards CEFE’s 2020 goal of reducing the Bega Valley’s power needs by 50% while at the same time generating 50% of the Shire’s energy needs from renewable sources – 50/50 by 2020.
If you are keen to add some science to the emotion and colour of Jim’s words, the BOM’s Annual Climate Statement is great reading (and viewing) for weather nerds and paints the full picture.
In short 2016 was:
*The world’s hottest year on record and the third year in a row where that record was broken.
*Australia’s fourth warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temp 0.87 degrees above average.
*Ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, with the annual mean sea surface temperature 0.73 degrees above average.
Only 20km of ice now connects this 5000sq km (twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory) ice sheet to the Antartic continent. The result’s come from the MIDAS Project, a collaboration of UK universities and academics monitoring the effects of global warming in West Antarctica.
As Matthew Nott suggests, the future is being shaped now.
The science gives the facts and figures of it, my 14-year-old son gives it a voice.
As adults imagine being one of the next generation/s knowing that this is part of your future.
*Poem reproduced with permission of the author, he even made me pay an artist fee!