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Karon beach, long and inviting, but not always safe to swim

Phuket Lifeguards Say 'Let's Close Karon Beach'

Saturday, October 30, 2010
KARON beach may have to be closed on dangerous days to prevent further tragedies and long-term harm to Phuket's tourism industry, says the leader of Phuket's lifeguards.

His assessment of Karon - and Phuket's other best-known beaches - comes as the Phuket Lifeguard Club marks six months overseeing safety on 13 of Phuket's most significant and often underappreciated tourism assets.

For Prathayut ''Nut'' Cheryon, it has been a testing half-year - but a half-year that has turned around the approach to safety on Phuket's beaches.

While the number of deaths from drowning is still too high for a tropical island that needs to ensure the safety of its beach holiday visitors, the toll so far in 2010 is virtually half what it was at this point last year.

Much of the credit for this goes to Khun Nut, his team, and the people in the background who have supported them with improved training and equipment.

Much still needs to be done - moves are underway to seek greater help from Australian surf lifesavers, and to put warnings where they would be most effective, on every fight descending to land at Phuket.

That first warning, combined with a second warning as guests check in at every Phuket resort during the April-November monsoon season, and a ''third strike'' in signage at the beaches, is as much as can possibly be expected.

The triple-warnings would make the job of the lifeguards easier, and they need every bit of help they can get. The official budget keeps their numbers limited and some of Phuket's beaches are long.

Jayne MacDougall, Director of Risk Management and Loss Prevention at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort and a prime supporter of the lifeguards, believes major improvements have been made.

''I was in the water at Nai Harn the other day when two girls got into trouble in a rip,'' she said. ''I reached them first, but the lifeguards swam to help them very quickly.''

While the quality of the lifeguards has lifted, it has become plain that better equipment is still needed, along with improved reaction times from Phuket's ambulances and medical teams.

Too many people are still pulled from the water alive, only to die soon after in hospital because resuscitation has not been carried out fast enough.

Along with dramatic improvements in the road toll on Phuket, the safety standards now in place on the beaches are an encouraging sign for the future of tourism.

But Karon beach, and at times, other Phuket beaches, becomes far more dangerous during the monsoon season, prompting Khun Nut to say that Karon may have to be closed to all swimmers on particularly dangerous days.

''It's what they do in Australia on similar holiday beaches,'' Khun Nut said. He also recognises that resorts and local authorities must all be active in warning guests, and in some cases protecting them from their own desire to go swimming in unsafe conditions.

Figures show that there have been 24 drownings on and around Phuket to the end of September, compared to 47 to the same time last year. The figures include all drownings, so because they also include those that have occurred at sea or on canals and pools, there is no accurate count yet for Phuket beaches.

The lifeguards are keeping their own complete records, so a beach-by-beach record will grow over time.

Some adjustment still needs to be made to the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organsation's tendering system, to make sure that the skills that are now being developed can be preserved. More training of lifeguards is planned for November.

Here is Khun Nut's assessment of some of the best-known Phuket beaches:

Karon

This is a beautiful, long beach. It was declared one of the top family beaches in the world by Lonely Planet, which is certainly true in high season. But in low season, it can be extremely dangerous. If it was in Australia, there are days when it would be closed to all swimmers. But this is something that is difficult to do because of tourism. People visit Phuket for beach holidays, all year long. What we need is more help from the resorts to make sure Karon is safe all year.

Patong

Phuket best known and most popular beach. Jet-skis and parasailing make this beach dangerous for reasons that have nothing to do with the rip currents that are sometimes found here. For the safety of swimmers, the jet-skis and the speedboats need to be in different areas, clearly marked and separated by buoys. Safety here needs to improve a lot.

Nai Harn

There are dangerous spots at Nai Harn, which is especially popular with locals. But with two pods of lifeguards now operating there, we are happy with improvements.

Kata

Kata is probably the best beach for board surfing during the low season, but the boards need to be kept separate from the body surfers and swimmers. Boards are best at the southern end, swimmers at the northern end.

Surin

This beaches has lounges, tables and chairs and umbrellas in growing numbers, making it hard to see warning flags. Lifeguards also have trouble guarding the beach when there are so many obstructions in the way.

Nai Thon

A beach that can be wild but that is attracting growing numbers of visitors. One of our lifeguards, Khun Jid, has returned from Australia and is now helping with training here, and at other beaches.
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Comments

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This is a two headed snake - adequate lifeguard coverage should be provided at all beaches but if the conditions become too dangerous, of course beaches should be closed. If not, the lifeguards as well as the people who disregard them are at risk.

Education should start as people arrive in Phuket warning them of the perils of ignoring red flags (for the nay-sayers, I am not going to walk along the beaches and count the red flags I know are there.)

If funding is limited, perhaps its time for the hotels and others within Phuket who benefit from the tourism industry to sponsor the supply of adequate rescue equipment. If police and other emergency services in Western countries work this way - why not Thailand?

Posted by Mister Ree on October 30, 2010 11:24

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I"ve said it before and I'll say it again.....Artificial Surf Reef!
An artificial surf reef, which is basically made from big bags of sand, as well as creating surfable waves along Karon beach, which if done correctly would surely increase low season tourism, it would also greatly reduce the power of the breakers and the immediate shore area, thus making it a much safer place for any swimmers or unsuspecting tourists. All this while protecting the coastline from erosion at the same time, which Karon beach could certainly use looking at the pounding it takes every low season or 'summer' lol.

Posted by chalongian on October 30, 2010 13:53

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Congratulations to the lifeguard club for really making a difference this year, their first year with the contract and a massive improvement on anything offered in the past. I hope they can maintain the momentum and continue to make the beaches safer.

Posted by Kiwi on October 30, 2010 13:54

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All people living on the west coast of Phuket makes their money of tourism, directly or indirectly. And those who pay tax already sponsor the supply of rescue equipment.

It is the job of the authorities to use these tax money in a proper way.
An illustrated brochure, which explains the nature of the rip currents, would be very helpful here.

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on October 30, 2010 14:27

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Agree a brochure in all the different languages would help, and cost should come from the or bor tor who collect a three percent tax from all the hotels plus all the fees from the beach vendors and umbrella people.

Not a small amount of money that they collect compared to what they were paying for in life saving services. The money from Nai Harn umbrellas in two months pays for what they have given the winning bidder for the whole Island.

Posted by Michael on October 30, 2010 19:25

Editor Comment:

Don't local authorities collect from beach vendors while the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation administers the resorts tax?

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Hotel owner in Patong; VOLUNTEERS!!! Without volunteers Thailand would go under.....

Posted by jojo on October 31, 2010 05:03

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Finally someone of some repute has stood up and suggested that suicide beach be closed.

You can't make money from the dead.

Posted by David on November 1, 2010 21:51


Tuesday June 25, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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