Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) has once again highlighted the importance of understanding the conditions and understanding your limits -and swimming between the red and yellow flags-when it comes to beach safety.
Strong currents, surging surf and strong winds on the west coast of the North Island resulted in several daring rescues during Auckland Anniversary weekend. These included a high-drama rescue at Port Waikato on Monday afternoon, an after-hours rescue at Piha, and the rescue of multiple people swimming outside of the flagged areas across the country.
The rescue of two stranded men at Port Waikato, reportedly rock fishers, in treacherous conditions saw surf lifeguards from Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service putting themselves in harm’s way. Conditions were so challenging that they were unable to successfully launch an IRB (inflatable rescue boat).
Surf lifeguards at Ruakākā, Mangawhai Heads, Ōrewa, Whangamatā, Whiritoa, Omanu,
Taylor’s Mistake, and Sumner all performed rescues on people who became caught in rip
currents while swimming outside of the red and yellow flags. Meanwhile, Piha’s Search
and Rescue squad was activated to support an after-hours rescue on Monday evening.
SLSNZ CEO Steve Fisher has called on the public to exercise common sense, especially when conditions are challenging.
“Two of our key beach safety messages this patrol season have been to find the safest place to swim, which is always between the red and yellow flags, and to stay out if in doubt. Surf lifeguards in the Northern Region spotted multiple rock fishers on the west coast of Auckland this weekend, in conditions that were much too dangerous for it. Many were not wearing appropriate gear. They are putting themselves and our surf lifeguards in harm’s way. The two men are immensely lucky to have escaped with their lives,” he says.
But it is not just rock fishers putting themselves in harm’s way, says Steve Fisher. In total, surf lifeguards performed 30 rescues and 42 assists nationally across Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, as well as 802 preventative actions.
“That we are seeing so many people rescued while caught in rips, swimming outside the red and yellow flags or outside of patrol hours, goes to show that people continue to overestimate their abilities. We want the public to remember that we exist to keep them safe from the many hazards that exist around our coastlines: we can’t do that if people choose to remain ignorant to our advice,” he says.