Fearless volunteers set up Baywatch-style beach patrol in Dunbar

THEY are the fearless lifesavers ready to break into a slow-motion run at a moment’s notice.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 12:22 pm
Belhaven Beach Patrol: Lewis Peacock (13), Sally Harris (Head Coach), Angus Welch (17). Picture: Greg Macvean
Belhaven Beach Patrol: Lewis Peacock (13), Sally Harris (Head Coach), Angus Welch (17). Picture: Greg Macvean

And now, Scotland’s first Baywatch-style beach patrol has been revealed at one of the country’s most popular surfing spots – thanks to enthusiastic group of locals.

Volunteer lifeguards will man the historic Belhaven Bay in Dunbar at the height of the summer season when hundreds of surfers from across the country flock to the beach to experience its legendary swells.

The initiative, launched by Dunbar Surf Life Saving Club (DSLSC), is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK and it is hoped other popular coastal areas could follow suit if it proves successful.

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Belhaven Baywatch is Scotland's first Volunteer Beach Patrol Service and starts this year at Dunbar Beach. Picture: Greg Macvean

The club usually provides education and training on water safety and lifeguarding while allowing youngsters to enjoy the excellent surfing conditions.

Sally Harris, head coach and founder of the DSLSC said: “No one really learns surf life-saving skills on a basic level here, we don’t have that culture that they have in countries such as America and Australia.”

“The beach patrol has been something we thought of in the last couple of years, this will be our third season, but it’s only low level at the moment, most of our work will come in the high season between Easter and October.”

Beach patrol teams will be made up of a qualified lifeguard, an assistant and two junior members of the club, to provide them with hands on experience.

The patrol has been established thanks to a £10,000 grant from The Big Lottery Community Fund.

Sally added the extra cash injection had helped club members of all ages boost their own skills, while allowing them to invest in further resources to continue their lifesaving training. She said: ““We’re getting a whole heap of professional training, which has been amazing.”

“The coaches are getting really good assessor training, coach level two qualifications and we’re all getting coastal surveillance guidance for our beach patrol.”

She added the initiative had been quickly picked up by other popular surfing areas in Scotland, with plans for volunteer beach patrol teams being considered across the country.

Sally said: “One of the coaches from a club in Thurso is coming down to do their training and they are starting to think this might be a good model for them to have.”

The beach is regarded as one of the best in the UK for surfing beginners, with the shallow waters and calm waves creating a perfect environment for novice surfers looking to get started in the sport.

Stand-up paddle and body boarding are also popular in the area.

Around 30 youngsters regularly attend the club’s meets, with some of its older members taking part in the National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Award – an internationally recognised lifeguarding qualification which could help them access opportunities in popular surfing locations around the world such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Junior member Yve said she was “honoured” to be part of the patrol, adding that the training provided by the club made her want to pursue her full lifeguard qualifications in the future.

She added: “Right now, I’m not old enough to be a lifeguard but the beach patrol training can help me to eventually become a lifeguard and work in different countries.”

“It makes you proud to know you are part of Scotland’s first voluntary-run beach patrol.”

Sally added that she hoped the increased interest in the club from outside the Lothians would allow them to attract new members and branch out into running competitive surf meets at the Bay.

She said: “I think we’ve made it really inclusive and that’s why it’s been so popular.”

“All over through England and Wales they have big competitions and we can’t access them because they’re in the English school holidays so although it’s supposed to be a British national governing body we’re exclusive because we’re up here away from all the other clubs.”

Sally continued: “Hopefully this gives us something unique to set us apart from the clubs down there.”