Lifeguards keep close watch on area beaches

Published on August 12, 2014
Hannah McLean and Melissa Holley, lifeguards at Melmerby Beach, are prepared if fun surf turns into tough conditions. 

MELMERBY BEACH - Hannah McLean, Melissa Holley, and Kali Caulier watched over swimming children and adults as the surf pounded the shoreline on Tuesday, atypical waves making the conditions more adverse than normal.

Though they weren’t handling any incidents Tuesday morning, it’s nothing the trained lifeguards couldn’t handle if they had to make a rescue.

The most recent reported incident from Melmerby Beach, director of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service Paul D’Eon said, was a rescue on Sunday involving a small group of people caught in the current.

No one was injured, nor needed resuscitation; they simply weren’t able make their way back to shore on their own.

“A beach seemingly safe one day can be quite treacherous another day,” D’Eon said, after describing what happens when waves pick up after a long period of gentle surf.

He said it’s quite common on Northern Nova Scotia beaches for sandbars to build when there’s no wave action, and collapse under strong surf.

The waves, needing somewhere to go, can cause a rip current that makes swimming to shore more difficult.

“People don’t tend to know they’re in them,” McLean, one of the regular lifeguards at Melmerby Beach, said.

To avoid getting caught, she advises people to watch for seemingly calm areas with no waves breaking on a windy day. 

However, if it happens, swimmers can travel parallel to the shore until they’re out of the current, depending on its length, until they’re able to head towards land.

If that’s not possible, raising your arm above your head signifies to the lifeguard that they’re needed.

“When there’s waves, we train in them,” Holley said, allowing them to be prepared should a situation arise.

On a windier day, it’s a good idea to check with lifeguards about what sections to avoid, they said.

However, waves over the past three days are the strongest they’ve seen this summer, McLean said.

The water has been mostly flat, she said.

On a regular day at the beach, their best advice for beach-goers is to know their abilities, and not try to exceed them by swimming out too far, or the like.

They also suggest parents keep their children within arms length.  

They haven’t experienced any incidents out of the ordinary at the beach this summer with D’Eon naming cuts, people swallowing water and a possible heart attack for incidents so far this season.

Speaking outside of safety, McLean noted it’s been fairly warm throughout the season, and the bountiful jellyfish are no longer lining the shore.

Their population numbers are down, McLean said, though July was a beautiful month weather-wise.

NSLS lifeguards remain at Nova Scotia Provincial Parks until Sept. 1.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda



By the numbers

2013 Melmerby Beach Safety Stats

Minor Rescues: 3

Minor First Aid: 2

Lost Person: 0

Major Emergency: 0

Non-emergency: 1

Proactive Intervention: 122

Reactive Intervention: 8


Information from the 2013 Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service Annual Report