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Vigilance required this Waitangi Weekend

Image: Supplied.

Many Kiwis are going to be heading to the beach this Waitangi Day. Many will have thought far enough ahead and taken the following day off too, giving themselves a four day weekend.

Surf Life Saving NZ wants people who do head to the beach to remember the charity’s water safety messaging.

“While volunteer Surf Lifeguards will be on patrol at some beaches on Thursday and the weekend, in most places there won’t be any patrols on Friday, so please be extra vigilant,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Dalton says.

Paul says swimmers should swim at a lifeguarded beach and between the flags wherever possible.

He says people should keep an eye out for rip currents which often appear as calmer and safer areas with less wave action.

“They may appear as enticing areas to enter the water. However, regardless of how fast rip currents flow, they pose a risk to any swimmer who may quickly find themselves out of their depth and unable to touch the bottom.

“If you do get caught in a rip, remember the 3Rs Rip Survival Plan.”

RELAX & FLOAT. Stay calm, relax and float. The rip current will not pull you under the water and is just taking you for a ride offshore. Try to fight the urge to swim back to shore against the current; this will use up energy that you need to stay afloat before help arrives.

RAISE YOUR HAND. Signal for help by calling out and raising your arm to attract attention from lifeguards, surfers or someone on the beach who can get help.

RIDE THE RIP. Remain floating until the current weakens or stops and you can swim back to shore or help arrives. Many rips will circulate and bring you back into shallower waters closer to the shore where you may be able to stand.

Paul says it is important that people look for, read and understand all safety signs that are at a beach. “Be sure to ask our friendly lifeguards for advice because conditions can change regularly,” he says.

He says it is vital that people don't overestimate their ability, or that of their child, to cope in the conditions and that parents always keep a very close eye on young children in or near the water.

“Keep them within arm’s reach at all times.”

Paul says a key safety tip is to never swim or surf alone. “Get a friend to swim with you.”

The same advice goes for rock fishing – never go alone. Paul says rock fishers should never turn their back towards the sea and always wear a lifejacket

“A really simple piece of advice is, if you’re in doubt – stay out! If you’re not sure of the conditions, sit on the beach and read a book, kick a ball around or build sandcastles with the kids. It’s not worth risking your life.”

Paul says it is particularly important that people call 111 and ask for the Police if they see someone in trouble in the water and there are no lifeguards on duty.

“The Police have a direct line to us.”

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Paul says above all, stay safe at the beach and have fun. “We want everyone to get home safe – whether it’s Waitangi Day at the beach or a long weekend at the beach.”

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