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Be extra vigilant at the beach this weekend

Remember to swim between the red and yellow flags at a lifeguarded beach. Photos: Supplied

Surf Life Saving NZ is urging beach goers to be extra vigilant this weekend, and throughout the rest of summer.

The call comes as the organisation’s volunteers have been responding to an increase in serious incidents, and weather around much of the country remains warm driving people to cool off at the beach.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says Surf Lifeguards work extremely hard to keep people safe by patrolling beaches, and operating Search and Rescue squads that are activated after the patrols have gone home.

He says nobody is stronger than a rip and swimmers need to help Surf Lifeguards help them.

The message is simple.

“Swim between the red and yellow flags at a lifeguarded beach and remember the 3Rs – Relax and float, Raise your hand and Ride the rip.”

Allan says too often people over estimate their abilities and under estimate the conditions.

“People think they are able, but haven’t done an honest check of themselves. If they are in doubt of their ability in conditions then stay out, don’t go in.”

He says people often get caught out when wave conditions appear “medium to benign”.

“The waves might look alright, but the rips are still there.”

Rip currents are the main cause of rescues performed at a beach, and Allan encourages people to learn how to spot them before getting in the water. Often they appear as regions of deeper, darker water with less wave breaking activity between areas of white water, or a patch of surface water that is rippled or bumpy with criss-crossed waves compared to areas either side of this section of water.

“The rip current will not pull you under, and nor will it take you out to sea,” says Allan.

“It may take you a little way out but often the water will circulate and bring you into shallower water where you can stand up.

“While floating on your back just stick your hand up, and either a surf lifeguard will get you, or someone will call 111 and get help to you. You can last a long time floating on your back in the surf.

“If you’re unsure that what you’re looking at is a rip, don’t get in the water. If in doubt, stay out,” says Allan.

The charity is also urging parents to keep children within arm’s reach and always swim, surf or fish with a buddy.

“Keep children close enough to cuddle and never swim alone,” says Allan.

Surf Life Saving NZ’s Beach Safety Messages:

  • Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags
  • Read and understand the safety signs - ask a Surf Lifeguard for advice as conditions can change regularly
  • Don't overestimate your ability or your children's ability to cope in the conditions
  • Always keep a very close eye on young children in or near the water - keep them within arm’s reach at all times
  • Get a friend to swim with you - never swim or surf alone
  • Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip current remember the 3Rs - Relax and float, Raise your hand and Ride the rip
  • Be smart around rocks: When fishing, never turn your back towards the sea and always wear a lifejacket
  • If in doubt, stay out!
  • If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for Police
  • Be sun smart – Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap. Protect your skin and eyes from the sun's damaging rays.

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