Epic swim relay promotes skills message

Professional lifeguards from Wollongong and Kiama will take part in a 25 kilometre ocean relay swim from Stanwell Park to North Beach on Sunday.

The ‘‘Grand Pacific Swim’’ has been organised by the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association (APOLA) to raise awareness about water safety and highlight the skills of professional lifeguards.

The swim will be done in two-kilometre legs with some swimmers doing more than one leg. One lifeguard will attempt to swim the entire distance.

The first swimmers will hit the water at 6am and organisers are estimating they will arrive at North Beach at 1.30pm.

Stanwell Park lifeguard Chanan Clark will be swimming and said it was a good opportunity to highlight the work lifeguards do.

‘‘APOLA is the professional equivalent of Surf Life Saving but nobody knows much about it,’’ he said.

‘‘Our message is always about safety in the water, but this is a good way to show the public that there is a professional service, just like the fire brigade and the ambulance, whose job it is to keep them safe at the beach.’’

Mr Clark said most beachgoers didn’t see the effort lifeguards put into making beaches safe, and that  10per cent of the time when something bad  went  down, it was  real bad.

He was one of the lifeguards on duty in January 2011 when 47 people needed to be rescued at Stanwell Park – the second-biggest mass rescue in Australian history.

‘‘It was the worst day in my work history, but that is the message we need to get across...  that there is a professional unit out there whose job it is to make sure they are safe.’’

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