Elizabeth Walker stood under the flags at Nobbys and looked over the surf.
A shower overnight had cleared to a muggy 22-degree day under a light southeasterly and a water temperature around 18 degrees. The beach was already filling up as the sun came out around 10.30am, and swimmers started to hit the water.
Elizabeth is a Year 9 student at Hunter Valley Grammar and has been involved with the local surf club since she was a nipper.
It's going to be a big season, she said. By all accounts, the region is shaping up for a hot and dry summer. The surf life saving clubs along the stretch of Hunter beaches expect record crowds this season. And on Nobbys, an Australian summer is just another day in paradise.
"All of them are volunteers," Hunter Branch Surf Life Saving president Henry Scruton said at the weekend, "They're not here because they have to be here, but because they want to be here.
"All the kids get on together; they learn their training and are up-skilling all the time, getter cleverer and cleverer, and it inspires me to keep going. The youth coming through - their exuberance and excitement is contagious."
Raising the red and yellow flags on Nobbys on Saturday morning marked more than just another season of beach patrols for the local Surf Life Saving Club, but coincided with a centenary of service since the first Surf Bronze Medallion squad was examined in April 1923.
The Bronze is the next step in Elizabeth's training.
The younger life savers are vital to the club's survival, Mr Scruton said.
"We have the juniors, our Nippers group, and mum and dad will bring them every Sunday ... We're very fortunate in that respect; the parents have a great experience at the Surf Club and encourage the next generation to come.
"You really have to be a member to appreciate the camaraderie involved. Each of our clubs is set up like individual tribes, but then you combine them, and they're almost unbeatable. They're wonderful people. They come to a really good culture."
With a bumper season ahead, Mr Scruton said beach safety would be more important than ever this year as the flags went up and patrols began again in earnest.
"We can't emphasise that enough," he said, "During COVID, a lot of people like to have their privacy and stay away from crowds, which is understandable. Now that COVID has died down, people still like their private piece of beach and are unfortunately the ones that are getting into trouble."
"Our volunteers provided first aid 350 times, made 180 rescues, and completed nearly 36,500 preventative actions.
"We're trying to encourage everybody to swim between the flags, swim on a patrolled beach. If you've got little ones, don't let them out of your sight. Always keep an eye on them.
"I keep saying that alcohol and salt water don't mix. If you had a few beers, work on your sun tan; don't go in the water."
"We had more than 750,000 visitors to our beaches last summer, and that number is expected to increase with reports of particularly hot months on the way.
"Our volunteer surf lifesavers are an integral part of Australian culture, and they are proud to be back on the sand for another busy season.
The Newcastle Permanent has supported the Hunter Surf Life Saving movement for the past four decades. The mutual's Chief Distribution Officer, Paul Juergens, said the organisation played a vital role in keeping the beaches safe.
"Just last year in the Hunter, more than 7,000 active patrolling members hit the sand, clocking up nearly 60,000 patrol hours," he said, "We are thrilled to see Hunter Surf Life Saving raise the flags for another summer."