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Australia's lifesaving champs

The volunteer lifesaver is an Australian national icon. More than 8,000 lifesavers gathered to compete earlier this month.

Australia boasts more than 15,000 miles of coastline, making a trip to the beach an integral part of life Down Under. Helping keep people safe when they are in the water is part of the responsibility of the more the 260 surf lifesaving clubs, with their 80,000 volunteer members across the country.

The New South Wales Surf Lifesaving Championships test members of clubs throughout the state in a variety of skills. Some of the contests are reminders of historical techniques used to help people in distress, while others are based firmly on present-day rescue techniques. More than 8,000 people from 129 clubs in the state gathered on Cronulla beach south of Sydney for competition in early March.

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The Australian Surf Lifesaving Championship, a nationally televised event, will be held March 28 - April 2, 2006.