AN urgent call has gone out for new volunteer surf lifesavers, as numbers at some South Coast clubs hit historic lows.
Ahead of another busy summer season, this could mean lives will be put at risk.
South Coast Surf Life Saving branch president Steve Jones has never before had to make such an appeal.
He said three of the branch's nine clubs - Gerringong, Shoalhaven Heads and Sussex Inlet - were in desperate need of volunteers. Sussex Inlet was in danger of closing. The Gerringong club needs 50 award members to operate and has enough for the moment, but Mr Jones said more recruits would take the pressure off existing members.
"Numbers have dropped over the last two years, which we're keeping a close eye on," he said.
He particularly encouraged parents of junior members to get involved.
Mr Jones said he was constantly hearing that people were too "time poor" to volunteer, but also noted that the clubs most in need were those in areas with many retirees and fewer young families.
He said there were a lot of benefits to be gained by joining a surf club, including life skills, training in ocean rescue and resuscitation and the chance to go on and work as a professional lifesaver.
"Every professional lifesaver, including those on Bondi Rescue, would have come up through a local surf club as a volunteer," he said.
"It also looks pretty good on a young person's resume, if an employer sees you have volunteered hundreds of hours for the community and achieved all this training and these awards."
These benefits are beside the obvious one - the chance to save someone's life.
"We have junior lifesavers as young as 13 who have saved people from the surf unassisted," Mr Jones said.
He said high school students could complete the Duke of Edinburgh award at their surf club and their qualifications could be used to work as a lifeguard at swimming pools, or even overseas.
The summer surf season starts on September 26.
For more information, visit the Surf Life Saving NSW websitesurflifesaving.com.au, or go to your surf club's open day on Sunday, September 29.