Lifeguards enjoying busy but safe summer

Heather Beach to host Fun Day on Saturday

Andrew Wagstaff
Published on August 7, 2014

Lauren Doane (above) and Emily Matthews have been two of the lifeguards keeping watch over Heather Beach this summer. They are planning their annual Fun Day at the beach on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow

PORT HOWE – Saving lives is their job, but having fun will also be important this weekend for the lifeguards at Heather Beach.

The lifeguards will host their annual Fun Day at the beach on Saturday, Aug. 9, from noon to 3 p.m., with activities including a sand castle contest, free “Swim to Survive” lessons, games for children, and prizes.

The swim lessons will be offered in the morning, according to lifeguard Emily Matthews.

As part of the lesson, swimmers will learn how to roll off a paddleboard into the water, tread water for 30 seconds, and swim for 50 metres.

 “It’s basically a certificate, to teach you if you’re ever in a boating accident or a water incident, to know that you can be safe,” she said. “It’s to get yourself to the point where you can be rescued or in good condition.”

This year’s Fun Day will coincide with HarbourFest activities in nearby Pugwash, which could make for more traffic than usual at Heather Beach, something the lifeguards are prepared for.

Matthews is being joined on staff this year by fellow lifeguards Lauren Doane and Rachel Betuik.

The summer so far has been warm, sunny and busy for the lifeguards, who began their duties on the last weekend in June.

“The water has been real warm this year too,” said Doane. “The temperature is usually in the low 20s.”

The beach has seen about 500 people per day on the weekends.

“We get a fairly decent split between cottagers who come for months, and people who just come out for a day,” said Matthews. “Everyone has been really good at following the warning signs we post on our board.”

In fact, Heather Beach is so safe that the only reminder the lifeguards have had to repeat to beachgoers this summer has been to keep their dogs on leashes.

“If there is an offshore wind and the tide is going out, you might lose an inflatable because the next thing it will hit is P.E.I.,” said Matthews. “Other than that, it’s a very safe beach simply because of the way it ended up being shaped, with a slight slope and a giant sandbar.”

Nova Scotia lifeguards are fully certified and attend training before the season begins to ensure they have technical and physical skills to do water rescue and promote water safety.

Since 1973, the lifeguard service has maintained a perfect record of no drownings on Nova Scotia beaches during supervised hours.

The Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service and the Lifesaving Society, Nova Scotia Branch, are contracted by the Department of Health and Wellness to provide supervision at 23 Nova Scotia beaches. They also guard some federal and municipal beaches.

Twitter: @ADNandrew