With the end of patrol season falling earlier than usual this year, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand urges people to stop and think before entering the water at an unpatrolled beach.
Lifesaving and education manager, Allan Mundy, says as the weather is still very settled at this time of the year, there is a risk of drownings continuing.
“We are asking people to take responsibility for their own safety and those around them. Learn to spot rips, assess the conditions and always swim with a friend. The surf is an unpredictable environment that can change very quickly. If you’re not confident in your ability and don’t know how to safely get yourself out of danger, then quite simply you should stay out,” he says.
Statistics for the 2017/18 season show a 26 per cent increase on the number of rescues compared to last season, and most encouragingly, an 84 per cent increase on the number of assists. Mr Mundy says lifeguards really stepped up to the challenges of a record summer that saw unusually high numbers of swimmers on New Zealand beaches each day, coupled with larger than normal surf.
“They can all be proud of the fact that they have contributed to saving hundreds of lives,” he says.
While the red and yellow flags will not be out until Labour Weekend, volunteer lifeguards will continue to be part of call-out and search and rescue squads over the winter months.
Mr Mundy says: “A massive thank you must go out to the 19,000 members and 5,000 lifeguards around the country, who have worked tirelessly to keep beachgoers safe for another year.
“Being a surf lifeguard is a big commitment and we’re incredibly grateful to all of our volunteers.”