WITH the national flag flying half-mast to honour two sadly passed "greats” of surf lifesaving, the next generation of Noosa Heads lifesaving prepared to take to the beach this Saturday as red and yellow volunteers resume patrolling for the season.
And with the holidays crowds about to descend, the likes of officially recognised surf rescue hero RJ Lemon, 18, and newly appointed nipper club captains Jackson and Bella Smith (no relation) are ready for the flags up from 7am. RJ has just returned from Canberra after being presented with Surf Life Saving Australia's rescue of the month award for saving his mate whose leg was impaled by a large stingray back in June.
He is already living up to the very high standards set at Noosa by club patron and sporting supremo Garth Prowd, while the club's pre-season breakfast on Friday also paid tribute to former Coast ironman legend, Dean Mercer.
Dean was the brother of Noosa Heads surf coach and ironman champion Darren and uncle to their world champion board paddler Jordan. Garth's death overseas was described as "a great loss to our club” while Dean, whose funeral was on the Gold Coast that day, was described as "the pinnacle of ironman racing”.
Coast lifesavers are going to have to work hard to emulate last season when for the first time there were no lives lost on the beach over the busy Christmas holiday period. Surf Life Saving Queensland director Kaitlyn Akers, who patrols at Mudjimba, said "last season we had one of our best seasons ever”.
"Across the whole season our drowning reduction was down to two for the whole season from 11 the year before. And 2561 were rescued in the water.
Jackson and Bella, both 13, have just qualified to patrol their first season as juniors keen to make a difference.
Bella has been part of the Noosa Surf Club family since she was a six-year-old "white cap” and says "the best thing about being a nipper is the friendships I've developed and will maintain for the rest of my life”.
RJ is looking forward to patrolling this weekend, probably down at Noosa West, knowing he can remain cool and act decisively under pressure.
"I patrol whenever they need me, I just love it.”
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