The death of a competitor at the Surf Life Saving Australia’s (SLSA) junior national titles in March last year and subsequent recommendations from the Coronor has prompted the organisation to introduce buoyancy vests for future surf lifesaving events. The tragic drowning of 14-year-old Matthew Barclay of Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club was the third death of a competitor during a SLSA event at Kurrawa beach since 1996. In 1996 and 2010 respectively, Robert Gatenby and Saxon Bird drowned at Kurrawa while participating in national surf life saving titles. Kurrawa is set to remain the designated venue for the national surf life saving titles until 2017. A recommendation that stemmed from the coronial inquest into Barclay’s death last year was that floatation vests and helmets be worn by competitors during competitions. However, this year’s Navy Australian Surf Rowers League (ASRL) series at Manly saw all competitors donning buoyancy safety vests for the first time since the league was formed in 1992, as reported by the SMH.
ASRL treasurer Don Alexander credits this year’s 25% increase in the number of participants to the introduction of the vests, which is surely a positive outcome, however only time will tell how effective this risk mitigating strategy will be in controlling the risk of drowning. This year’s season ended without any mishaps on February 8th with competitors from around the nation competing in the Open titles at Stockton Beach in Newcastle.