Three people have drowned on Hunter coastlines in 2020 - the same amount as the previous surf life saving season, despite the flags coming down a month early this year.
The patrol season was cut short by four weeks due to coronavirus restrictions, causing beach attendance to drop dramatically in April.
But the three deaths had sadly already occurred by then. A swimmer drowned at Caves Beach on January 7, followed three days later by a drowning in unknown circumstances at Stockton and the death of a rock fisher at Big Rocky in Port Stephens on March 22.
The figures were released on Wednesday by Surf Life Saving NSW, which described 2019/20 as "one of the most unusual patrol seasons on record".
There were less rescues and first aid performed in the Hunter than the previous year, but more preventions (actions taken to direct people away from unsafe areas or hazardous conditions).
There were 144 rescues and 539 first aid responses at Hunter beaches this season, compared to 235 rescues and 649 first aid incidents in 2018/19, and 59,164 preventative actions taken, up from 34,545 in the previous year.
It was an unprecedented season across the state with surf lifesavers on the South Coast called in to assist with the raging bushfires midway through summer followed by Sydney clubs being impacted by flooding in February.
While the 13 surf clubs across the Hunter managed to majorly avoid the impacts of the bushfires and flooding, Surf Life Saving NSW Hunter branch president Henry Scruton said local clubs were on high alert for bushfires over summer, particularly the isolated Fingal Bay and Catherine Hill Bay clubs.
Mr Scruton said Hunter beach goers followed the coronavirus restrictions well, with just surf life saving support operations continuing after the beaches were closed.
"The number of beach goers did drop dramatically," he said. "People were still able to use their boats, but there were much less people actually going to the beach."
In another positive for the season, two Hunter clubs also took home Surf Life Saving NSW rescue of the month awards across the season.
Redhead SLSC won the November 2019 award after junior lifesavers Nicholas White, Lily Kennedy-Myers and Jet Hoffman rescued three boys who had been swept into a strong rip.
Fingal SLSC/Port Stephens Support Ops was awarded the March 2020 nod for the rescue of a fisherman, who was thrown a life jacket and pulled to safety after being swept off some rocks near Boulder Bay. Another fisherman who was also thrown a life jacket but was unable to retrieve it, was pulled from the water but sadly could not be revived.