DUCK wranglers Maddy Blick and Zach Donnelly will hit the water at 7.30am on Sunday to prepare for Newcastle's biggest bird race, Ducks 4 Dollars.
Wearing wetsuits and dive shoes, a team of six wranglers will navigate Newcastle's oyster-lined jetty to set up the oil spill barricades so no ducks can make the voyage out to sea.
The wranglers will be in and out of the water until lunchtime as the three duck races take shape.
Nobbys Surf Lifesaving Club's Zach Donnelly, 16, has helped with the Australia Day race for the past three years.
He said the tide could be unpredictable, with the ducks often making bee-lines for Stockton or the drains.
Ducks 4 Dollars celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is the major fund-raiser for 13 Hunter Surf Lifesaving Clubs and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Hunter Surf Lifesaving Club chief executive officer Rhonda Scruton said manning Hunter beaches safely over the summer weekends was costly, despite the huge support of volunteers. She said surf lifesaving club equipment was audited every year in September.
If anything is not up to scratch, it needs to be replaced. Rescue boards are $2500 a pop, radios cost $800 each, an inflatable rescue boat with a motor costs $16,000.
■ Ducks 4 Dollars will be held on Australia Day, Sunday, January 26, from 10.30am. Ducks can be bought before the races.