About a dozen people had to be rescued from Warrnambool's main beach in the space of three hours on Friday in a "hairy" day for lifesavers.
A decision made in 2022 to extend the season for professional lifeguards beyond Australia Day meant there were people on duty on Friday when traditionally there wouldn't.
Duty lifeguard William McNeil said if they hadn't been there "it would have been a completely different story".
"Fortunately we got them all. It was a very busy day."
Dangerous conditions meant extra lifesaving club members had to be brought in to help lifesavers involved in seven separate rescues, one involving four people.
They ended up closing the beach at The Flume by the end of the day because of the dangerous conditions, but the patrolled area remained open.
Surf Life Saving Victoria chief lifeguard for the western area Michael Owen said it was the first time in years there had been an incident involving multiple rescues in Warrnambool.
"There was so many people swimming down there on Friday, it was packed because the caravan parks were full," he said. "There were a lot of people swimming outside the flags."
Jobe Steel said it was the first time he had to rescue someone in his eight years as a surf lifesaver, and ended up helping nine people in five separate operations.
"Will and I just had good communication throughout the day and managed to stay on top of it," Mr Steel said.
"I was just grateful no one needed any first aid.
"The current was just really strong all day. There were rips popping up all over the beach for pretty much the whole day."
In one incident, Mr Steel paddled out to rescue a brother and sister, in another he had to bring in four friends one by one.
"One time I had to get into the ATV and drive all the way down to The Flume and quickly get the board off and paddle in," he said.
Mr Steel said all the people he was involved in rescuing were teenagers.
"It was very busy. I'd never even rescued anyone. Will and I were just sitting up in the tower and you just see the people struggling with the current and starting to go under and you know you've got to go, everything just kicks into gear," he said.
Mr McNeil said when they both entered the water to test the conditions early in the day they felt it sucking out, and they knew that it was going to be a high alert day.
Signage was erected along the beach warning of the dangers. The inflatable rescue boat was also positioned on the beach.
"With the caravan park being so full, we knew there was going to be an influx of people especially with the weather. It was windy but it was warm," Mr McNeil said.
About 1pm a young male swimmer ventured "out past his depth". "There was a sandbar running through the middle. As soon as he walked off the sandbar his head went under water and his arms were flapping," Mr McNeil said.
"His family was pretty happy that we got him in, they were a bit worried.
"That's when a lot more people started entering the water and it started to get a bit hairy.
"Every 15 minutes there was another person in trouble."
Mr McNeil described three of the incidents as major rescues. "Those people I would have given them two more minutes and they would have been in some serious trouble, possibly drowning," he said.
He said local surfers had also helped with a couple of the rescues.
"It was a real joint effort, not just us but people in the community that helped out," he said.
"It's fortunate most were in front of us. We can't stress enough how dangerous The Flume and Granny's is on these types of days."
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