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Lifeguard exercise at Gorleston

PUBLISHED: 11:06 03 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:34 03 July 2010

IT is a sight that immediately catches the eye of highly-trained lifeguard Daniel Buck on Gorleston beach.

With his parents apparently oblivious to what is going on, a youngster has dragged an inflatable boat into the deceptively calm waves breaking on to the golden sands.

IT is a sight that immediately catches the eye of highly-trained lifeguard Daniel Buck on Gorleston beach.

With his parents apparently oblivious to what is going on, a youngster has dragged an inflatable boat into the deceptively calm waves breaking on to the golden sands.

Within a couple of minutes, the lightweight craft has been tugged by the breeze hundreds of metres offshore and, as the lad on board seems to panic, it is only the swift action of Daniel racing to the rescue on his rapid inflatable craft that saves the day.

Thankfully, Friday's action was just a demonstration by one of Norfolk's busiest RNLI lifeguard teams to highlight the potential danger facing beach goers at the start of the peak holiday season.

In an exercise played out in front of a packed beach, the lifeguards combined with the Gorleston inshore lifeboat and sea rescue helicopter from RAF Wattisham in a series of displays designed to send out an important safety message.

The lifeguard team carried out 112 rescues last summer, in their first season at Gorleston, and the frustration for Daniel, a senior lifeguard, is that beach goers continue to commit the same, potentially fatal blunders.

Pointing to the bobbing inflatable, left in the sea following the mock rescue, he said: “It is never a good idea to go in the sea with one of those, and it is highly dangerous when the wind is blowing offshore. They can quickly disappear hundreds of metres away from the beach.

“We fly a bright orange windsock on top of our beach hut when the wind is blowing offshore, but people still take inflatables in the water and there are plenty of others we manage to stop before they reach the shore.”

Red and orange flags clearly mark the safest area to swim, and Daniel stressed the importance of observing them with strong currents - apparently made more treacherous by the building of the outer harbour - ready to drag the unwary behind a breakwater on the northern side of the beach.

“We have already had to rescue one kayaker from there this year,” he said.

Ironically, it is this very spot where foolhardy youths continue to leap off the breakwater, defying the dangers and a possible £1,000 fine.

Daniel's colleague Daniel Griffin said he had even been physically attacked by youngsters he had earlier stopped indulging in so-called tombstoning.

Lifeguards supervisor Sam Kendricks said RNLI lifeguards had become a reassuring presence on beaches nationally since they were first introduced in the West Country in 2001 - the service was introduced in Norfolk in 2007 and there were now nine teams across the county.

Their rigorous training includes monthly tests, including a 400m pool swim that has to be completed in 7min 30sec or less.

He echoed the fact that many of the beach incidents they faced followed a familiar, avoidable pattern.

However, one hazard that has cropped up so far this season cannot be blamed on a lack of common sense - more than 10 beach goers at Gorleston have had to be treated for painful weever fish stings.

Last season, there were 112 lifeguard-attended incidents in Gorleston, 53 in Hemsby and 27 in Yarmouth.

The five lifeguard units in North Norfolk - Sheringham. Cromer East, Cromer West, Sea Palling and Mundesley - dealt with 411 incidents in the same period.

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