Do you think this signage is enough to keep the public safe? Let’s bring back the Surf Guard program at Long Beach. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

EDITORIAL: Restore the Surf Guard program at Long Beach

We want to see the federal government invest money back into public safety.

Lovekin Rock at Long Beach is one of the most photographed and revered landmarks in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Like a beacon of fortitude, it protrudes just off shore, bringing clarity to our minds as we stop for repose on our way home from Tofino or Ucluelet.

When a setting sun reflects off the water and the waves are real clean and friendly, one wouldn’t wish to be surfing anywhere else in the world.

But cast beauty aside and Lovekin reveals horrors, especially when admired from the water.

Rip currents are strongest around the Rock, so much so that Parks Canada has a warning sign posted at the beach entrance warning novice surfers and swimmers to stay at least 200-metres from Lovekin.

Do you think that signage is enough to keep the public safe?

We want to see federal dollars invested into bringing back Surf Guards and a lifeguard tower at Long Beach.

A Surf Guard program was in place at Long Beach for about 40 years up until May 2012 when federal cuts to Parks Canada effectively annihilated the program.

It was reported that on average the Surf Guards performed eight water rescues and made 800 contacts with people on the beach per season.

What happens now when a surfer gets into trouble?

On Feb. 10, Nijin John, a PhD student from the University of Victoria, was killed in a surfing accident near Lovekin.

He was pulled out of the water unconscious with a large gash on his cheek. Unfortunately, first responders were unable to resuscitate the young man. He died on the beach that afternoon, right in front of Lovekin.

READ: Man dies in surfing accident on Long Beach near Tofino

We want to see the federal government invest money back into public safety.

The pricey new bathrooms will be lovely.

The multi-use trail will be wonderful. But frankly, all this new infrastructure is designed to attract more visitors, which in turn will only compound the problem that’s staring us right in the face.

Nijin John may not have noticed the signage as he made his way to the ocean, but chances are a Surf Guard would have spoken to him about paddling out at a safe entry point, and to avoid catching waves off the Rock.

At the very least, why can’t Long Beach be as safe and welcoming as say Jericho Beach in Vancouver? Jericho has lifeguards posted between late May to early September.

Raphael Bruhwiler, a pro surfer and part of the crew that operates Tofino’s Canadian Coast Guard Station, says they responded to 21 ‘surfer’ calls or non-vessel related calls in 2017. That includes plucking distressed surfers and kayakers off Lovekin.

It would be a good thing, says Bruhwiler, to bring back the Surf Guard program. He says investing in a jet ski would also be a very useful tool for surf rescue calls. It would make response time quicker and be safer for crews, he says.

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