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Flags up for surf season

A surf rescue in action. Surf lifesaving clubs in Wairarapa and across the country are preparing to patrol beaches from this weekend. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


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Summer is on its way and the region’s surf lifesaving clubs are putting their flags out as holidaymakers head to the coast for Labour Weekend.

Labour Weekend marks the official start of Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s [SLSNZ] 2019/20 season, and Riversdale club captain Mike Taylor said the region’s two most popular beaches, Castlepoint and Riversdale, both had unique features to think about.

“Of course, the gap at Castlepoint is a well-known surf break, which of course has the associated currents with them. You need to be aware of those, especially if you go swimming rather than on a surfboard.

“The beachfront at Castlepoint is a lot safer, it doesn’t tend to have too many rip currents there, however there are a couple of rips to the south end.”

Taylor said Riversdale had channels and currents “pretty well all the way along the beach”.

“It’s just a matter of asking the locals if you’re not used to the beach. Ask some of the locals, talk to the lifeguards and they’ll tell you where the best places to swim are.”

Taylor said the findabeach.co.nz website was a useful tool to get information about destinations before a trip to the seaside.

In the 2018/19 season, 16 people drowned on New Zealand beaches outside of patrol hours or away from lifeguarded beaches.

These were “preventable deaths”, Allan Mundy of SLSNZ, which has 4900 volunteer surf lifeguards across the country, said.

“It’s something that should never happen.”

Mundy said beachgoers often overestimated their abilities and underestimated the conditions.

“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.”

Rip currents are the main cause of rescues performed at a beach. Mundy said people needed to learn how to spot rips 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.

“If you’re unsure that what you’re looking at is a rip, don’t get in the water. If in doubt, stay out. But if you do get into a rip, it’s important to stay calm, relax and float on your back.”

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.

“At this time of year, you can last a long time floating on your back in the surf.”

  • Find out more online at surflifesaving.org.nz and findabeach.co.nz.

SLSNZ beach safety messages

  • Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags.
  • Read and understand the safety signs – ask a 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
  • If caught in a rip current remember the 3Rs: relax and float, raise your hand, and ride the rip
  • 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.


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