Wairarapa’s Riversdale Beach was something of a magnet over the long Wellington Anniversary weekend, with many people flocking to enjoy the hot summer weather, along with a surf carnival that was held on Saturday and a sandcastle-building competition that took place on Sunday.
Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club captain Mike Taylor said the number of beachgoers kept his lifeguards busy.
“On Saturday, we recorded a head count of 134 people, with 38 in the water and 96 on the beach,” Taylor said.
“On Sunday the numbers jumped with 430 people, 80 in the water and 350 out.
“We didn’t record figures for Monday, but I would estimate it is about half of Sunday’s figures.”
While there were no significant incidents, there was still work for the surf lifesavers to do to ensure people were safe.
“This can be anything from moving the flags to directing swimmers with hand signals to cleaning glass up off the beach,” Taylor said.
These responsibilities fell to the 34 guards on patrol, who racked up a combined total of 357 hours working over the three days.
Taylor noted that conditions at Riversdale Beach can catch swimmers off guard.
“The beach often sees big waves and strong currents, which can cause people to become unstuck quickly,” he said.
“It is a very short time from when people are comfortable to when people are panicking and in danger.
“We ask people to raise their hand, but we pick up on a range of signals when people are distressed.”
Data provided by Surf Lifesaving New Zealand allows for a comparison of the surf lifesaving activity nationwide versus at Riversdale during the summer period since October 23 last year.
Across the whole country, 154,109 hours have been worked by staff and volunteers, with the time put in at Riversdale making up 2008 of those hours.
Nationwide, there have been a total of 1400 rescues, assists, and searches during the period, while at Riversdale there have only been five.
There were 136 major first aid incidents around New Zealand and 1001 minor ones; at Riversdale, there were just four minor first aid incidents.
Those are very satisfactory stats as far as Taylor is concerned, and he said he is pleased with the work of the team at Riversdale and the generally sensible behaviour of beachgoers so far this summer season.
The Safe Swim website – safeswim.org.nz – provides up-to-the-minute information on water quality and swimming conditions at your favourite swimming spots.
< FREDDIE WILKIE