|Looking towards Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast|
I am filled with admiration for the members of Surf Life Saving Australia. Their member clubs do an amazing job keeping our beaches safe and protecting recreational swimmers of all levels from the dangers of an unpredictable surf. The clubs organise the vast majority of ocean swims as fundraisers and almost all are run in a professional manner by a team of dedicated volunteers who love what they do and have a passion for all things to do with the ocean.
They're also a competitive bunch who test their skills against each other in surf life saving competitions.
But over the past two years the biggest competition of all, the national championships, has been marred by tragedy.
In 2010 accomplished surf life saver and ironman Saxon Bird, 19, drowned at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships which are held annually at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Goast.
And just yesterday, 14-year-old Matthew Barclay, competing in the Under-15 board event at the 2012 championships, went missing in the surf on that same beach. His body was found this morning.
Here's a link to a recent story:
At the inquest into Saxon Bird's death there were calls to move the championships away from Kurrawa Beach. This didn't happen.
Is it right to play the blame game with the loss of another young life? I don't know. And I don't know enough about the circumstances surrounding Matthew Barclay's death to make an informed comment.
I did an ocean swim at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast in late 2011 and was surprised at the 'sweep' or current that dragged swimmers north towards Kurrawa. The swim I did started at 7.30am before the swell picked up and conditions became hairy. Gold Coast beaches are, for the most part, one continuous stretch of coast fully exposed to the elements.
In the news story in the link, someone said: "The statistics show this is an extraordinary run of bad fortune."
Try to explain that to Matthew Barclay's family.