Rescues on patrolled beaches within the South Coast Surf Lifesaving Branch increased for the 2020-21 season.
However, it's not surprising when you consider there was an increase of almost 90,000 people who attended the 12 patrolled beaches within the branch on the previous season.
"The 2020-21 season wrapped up in late March, with the branch's 3763 members across its nine clubs, stretching from just short of Lake Illawarra in the north to Kioloa in the south, undertaking 26,048 hours of patrol time for the season," Mr Jones said.
"The area's 86 rescues were up from 73 in the corresponding 2019-20 season."
He said that was still "86 too many", but added when you consider the number of people who visited South Coast beaches over the season, it reflected what a great job local surf lifesaving volunteers performed.
In the 2019-20 season 104,577 people attended South Coast patrolled beaches, compared to 193,796 during the 20-21 season, a fact Mr Jones put down to COVID.
"People weren't able to go overseas, so instead they were holidaying in regional areas across Australia," he said.
We had an increase of 89,219 people alone who visited our patrolled beaches.South Coast Branch Surf Lifesaving president Steve Jones.
"Across most regional areas, beach attendances went up and the South Coast was no different.
"We had an increase of 89,219 alone on our patrolled beaches."
Mr Jones, while still waiting for figures to be confirmed said it is believed there were more than a million visitors along the South Coast over the Christmas period alone.
"The really pleasing factor was we had no drownings at any of our patrolled beaches," he said.
There were 210 major first aid cases, including five fractured limbs, treatment of major wounds, while seven people were transported to hospital by ambulance and 2144 preventative actions, "pulling people out of difficulty but not classed as a rescue".
That compared to 272 first aid cases and 1650 preventive actions for the 2019-20 season.
Mr Jones praised the branch's members who overcame a number of obstacles, not the least being COVID, to continue to provide a vital community service and ensure the region's patrolled beaches remained safe.
"Of course this season we were also affected by COVID, as we were at the end of last season," he said.
"I must compliment our patrolling surf lifesaving men and women for their commitment to ensuring the public safety on our beaches.
"COVID has affected all Australian individuals who participate in, or undertake community activities.
"Our members committed themselves to providing a lifesaving service to the greater community regardless of the threat of COVID.
"However, we were also able to implement COVID safe practices and distancing on the beach as part of the government requirements.
"The stats indicate people were swimming safely and perhaps more aware of the environment they were in.
"We also had very few calls to isolated beaches where people were in trouble.
I must compliment our patrolling surf lifesaving men and women for their commitment to ensuring the public safety on our beaches. Our members committed themselves to providing a lifesaving service to the greater community regardless of the threat of COVID.South Coast Branch Surf Lifesaving president Steve Jones.
"It's not to say they didn't happen and we did have instances of people at unpatrolled areas being rescued by other beachgoers or surfers."
Despite the pulling down of the red and yellow flags for the season, Mr Jones said members remain on "call to tackle any emergency situations."
He said the same safety warnings from the patrol season, of being aware of current weather and beach conditions before venturing for a swim, remain for over winter.
"Although there are no flags up, people still swim at our beaches over winter," he said.
"And I urge them all to check out the conditions on the Beachsafe app (www.beachsafe.org.au) before venturing into the surf.
"The ap provides some great information."
He has encouraged people "wanting to take that great selfie or photo" not to put themselves at risk.
"We had a few call outs to rock ledges with people getting injured or suffering falls," Mr Jones said.
It's pretty simple - don't put yourself at risk. Is that photo really possibly worth your life?South Coast Branch Surf Lifesaving president Steve Jones.
"Please be aware of your surroundings - people also need to be aware of the conditions.
"There is no such thing as a rogue wave. Waves are different all the time, some are larger than others and people need to be aware of what's happening around them, especially on rock ledges near the surf.
"It's pretty simple - don't put yourself at risk.
"Is that photo really possibly worth your life?"
He also pleaded with South Coast rock fishers to "please wear life vests."
"We've seen some real tragedies over the past 12 months and it has been proven that life vests save people's lives," he said.
"So I strongly encourage all rock fishers to wear life vests."
Across NSW surf lifesavers performed 3,192 rescues during the past season, 406 more than the previous season despite COVID-19 lockdowns.
Emergency callouts for critical incidents statewide were also up by 199 on the previous season to 696.
This year has also seen an increase in the qualification of new lifesavers, since July 1, 2020, 2,453 members gained their bronze medallion and began patrols, an increase of 180 already on the previous season.