ABOVE: Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy (right) and Byron Bay lifeguards had a busy day controlling beaches.
ABOVE: Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy (right) and Byron Bay lifeguards had a busy day controlling beaches.

Surfers brave mountainous seas

By MARY MANN mary.mann@northernstar.com.au SURFERS were yesterday drawn like magnets to some of the biggest waves to hit the North Coast all year. But while they were out 'ripping it up' or getting their boards snapped in the massive surf, hundreds of 'foolish' swimmers were ignoring lifeguards and putting themselves at risk by taking a dip in the dangerous conditions. In the past two days, North Coast lifeguards have warned 1255 people for swimming in dangerous surf, 13 of whom had to be rescued from the water an outrageous amount considering the recent severe weather warnings and 'swimming prohibited' signs erected on North Coast beaches. Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy said if people continued to ignore the warnings they were not only putting their own lives at risk, but also the lives of those forced to rescue them. "The Northern NSW coast has some of the best lifeguards in the world and it is not fair to put them%at risk for foolish behaviour," Mr%Leahy said. "People have to take some responsibility for their own actions and not go in the water. "We want people to enjoy the beach, but not if it means they're going to get themselves into trouble." The extremely rough surf conditions along the coast are the result of a low pressure system off central Queensland, which is causing strong easterly winds. It is expected to ease off over the next week, with the next 24 hours or so tipped to be the worst. Yesterday, The Pass at Byron Bay was the only beach on the North Coast open for swimming. All the others were too dangerous, with large swells and strong rips threatening the lives of anyone who dared enter the tumultuous seas. Local surfer Andrew Sibley said the waves at Byron were similar to those in Hawaii. He had a ball riding them all morning, but his session was cut short when he took a dive and snapped his board. "It was my favourite board,"%Andrew said. "It's huge out there, about five foot, I reckon. "It was even bigger yesterday, up around six or seven foot. Usually it's only two or three." Andrew was not the only one to snap his board yesterday. Lifeguards at Byron Bay reported at least half-a-dozen surfers emerged from the water with their boards in two pieces. One of them told The Northern Star he was 'far too embarrassed to talk about it'. But it is not only us humans who are having a hard time in the rough surf: Sea turtles are being stranded along the coast as a result of the choppy conditions. Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue is taking care of four sea turtles, and three turtles have been found dead in the past two days. ASR is calling for help from all beach-goers to keep an eye out for sea turtles in distress. If you find a sick turtle on the beach, call ASR immediately on 6686 2852. The Australian Lifeguard Service advises people should only swim at beaches where lifeguards are on duty and the red and yellow flags are erected; follow any directions issued by lifeguards; obey any signage, and avoid near-shore boating, fishing or rock-fishing.



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