After a wonderful experience earlier this year at Coolum Beach in Queensland I was inspired to seek further information about getting into the surf again. I have not been able to get to, or go into the surf for years. The sand has always got in the way. It is just too hard to walk over soft sinking ground with my mobility problems.
Coolum beach access
After first contacting the Surf Life Saving Club at Coolum Beach I then spoke with Jake, the lifeguard on duty. He was in his watchtower. I explained what I wanted to do and what my mobility problems are.
"Cool", Jake said. "When you are ready, just ride your scooter to the bottom of the guard tower and call out. When I hear you, I'll come down and help you. We have an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) that I can drive you in."
This is exactly what happened. He drove me to the edge of the surf between the flags and helped me out with my walking sticks. The sticks sank into the sand but he and a friend helped me walk out to the waves. Once I was floating in water, I was all right on my own. Jake stayed and kept an eye on me, as well as the rest of the people on the beach. When I finished he drove me back up to my scooter.
Wow, I thought, that was fantastic. How can I do that again at another beach? How can I tell others what to do, in case they want to get into the surf too? It seemed so easy.
I contacted Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and spoke with Sarah Anderson, their Public Safety Project Coordinator. Sarah brought to my attention the Beachsafe website.
"It is the best place to start", she said. "There is a lot of information there and every beach is different. Some also have beach wheelchairs."
On the Beachsafe website there is a Beach Search Site. For each beach there is an information tab that tells you whether the beach is patrolled and its General Beach Hazard Rating. The least hazardous rating of one to three out of 10 and a patrolled beach might be suitable for someone with a disability. Depending on the disability, a higher rating of seven or up to 10 would probably not. Under another tab called Safety is the name of the service providers responsible for the beach.
Depending on the beach either surf lifesavers or lifeguards provide beach safety. Surf lifesavers are volunteers while local councils employ lifeguards. In the Beachsafe website there are links to councils that provide the lifeguard service. You can also contact the relevant council directly. The website also has a link to the Surf Life Saving Club.
I was hoping to find one website that would provide all of the information. The Beachsafe website is a good place to start. However, each beach is different and for some a phone number is provided, while for others it is an email enquiry for contact. I was hoping too, that under the 'Add facilities to your search' on the information page, that there might be accessibility or amenities information. I hope SLSA consider this suggestion in future upgrades of their website. Sarah said she appreciated hearing about my positive experience and my feedback about the website.
After finding a suitable beach, the Surf Life Saving Club might be the best place to contact first, as I did. I hope it works again when I try this summer. And I hope it works for you.