Lifesavers on duty over the festive season are bracing themselves for what is their busiest time of the year as holidaymakers head to the surf to enjoy what could turn out to be a long, hot summer.
Already there has been a huge swell in beachgoers with the beginning of the school holidays and workers taking annual leave in the lead-up to Christmas.
Surf Lifesaving NSW announced a new director of lifesaving for the Illawarra - Thirroul's Anthony Turner - who took up the role two weeks ago in time for the busy period.
Mr Turner - who is a former president of Thirroul Surf Life Saving Club, a position he held for four years - has been with the organisation for 25 years since the age of 14. In that time he has received 54 awards for his commitment to surf lifesaving.
The nurse, who has been involved in many rescues and drownings, is passionate about saving lives by spreading the swim safe message. He has urged beachgoers to be sensible this summer and to take care in the surf by swimming between the red and yellow flags and following the instructions of lifesavers.
"No flags, no swim," said Mr Turner, who is an Australian silver medallist in Inflatable Rescue Boat racing.
Mr Turner introduced IRB racing to the Thirroul SLSC, which now has one of the strongest competition teams in the country.
He said he planned to implement a number of changes during his term, including retaining younger members and providing assistance to clubs with low patrolling numbers.
"I think it's very important to not only retain our junior members, but to entice them to get involved in development pathways and exciting new opportunities in emergency response," Mr Turner said.
Initiatives over the peak summer season also include increasing roving patrols via jet-ski to unpatrolled beaches such as McCauley's Beach at Thirroul and Sharky's Beach at Coledale.
"With summer upon us it's important that we get our message across to the public to enjoy the beach safely by listening to lifesavers, wearing a lifejacket when rock fishing and to always swim at patrolled beaches," he said.
There are 8000 surf lifesavers in the Illawarra, ranging from patrolling members to nippers.
Last season five people drowned on South Coast and Far South Cost beaches and volunteer lifesavers were involved in 315 rescues.
For any surf emergency an around-the-clock, on-call response team can be contacted through triple-O to police.
An app is also available to assist with a wide range of coastal safety advice including rips, tides and patrolled beach locations. Smartphone users can download the app at beachsafe.org.au.