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Reminder to check your equipment before heading on the water

Volunteer Surf Lifeguards are reminding beach goers to check their equipment before getting in or on the water this summer.

The Surf Lifesaving season kicked off at a number of beaches on Labour Weekend, October 26, with the warm weather attracting plenty of people to the beach.

It also meant Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s Surf Lifeguards were kept busy with a number of rescues.

Across the Northern Region, six people were rescued, with the same number of people assisted to safety.

In the Eastern Region, there were 7 rescues at Whangamata and one at Pauanui.

Chaz Gibbons-Campbell, Club and Member Development Officer – Coromandel Area, says many of the rescues were similar in nature, and highlight important safety messages the charity shares with Water Safety NZ and Maritime NZ.

As part of NZ Water Safety Month, which runs until November 23, Maritime NZ held its Safer Boating Week in the lead up to Labour Weekend – when many boaties get back on the water after winter.

The theme of the week was “prep, check, know” – prep your boat, check your gear and know the rules before getting back on the water.

Mr Gibbons-Campbell says in Whangamata volunteers rescued two paddle boarders, two kayakers and a boogie boarder who were blown out to sea, a group cut off by the incoming tide, and a dog who swam too far out to sea while chasing a ball.

He says the Pauanui rescue involved a kayaker who needed assistance because her vessel was taking on water and sinking.

Stuart Upjohn is Co-Club Captain at Pauanui Surf Life Saving Club and says volunteers Sam Cox and Lachlan Hume were conducting an IRB patrol of the beach when they spotted the woman struggling to paddle towards the beach, against a reasonably strong offshore wind.

The pair checked on her and she said she was fine, so the teenagers continued their patrol.

When they checked on her again she was drifting further out to sea and by the time they reached her, the kayak was sinking.

Sam and Lachlan pulled the woman, who was wearing a lifejacket, into the IRB and grabbed her semi-submerged kayak, drained it and pulled it into the IRB.

Back at the beach Sam and Lachlan found a large crack in the seal of the kayak, which was causing it to take on water.

Mr Upjohn says the incident highlights the importance of checking equipment before heading out on the water, especially if it hasn’t been used in a long time.

Surf Life Saving NZ National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says people need to check the conditions before they head out on the water, and be prepared for the conditions to change.

He says craft like kayaks, Stand up Paddle boards and boogie boards capture the wind easily.

“If the wind is strong enough the craft will be dominated by the wind and the paddler will be overcome by the wind’s effect on the craft’s stability and direction the wind will blow the craft in,” Mr Mundy says.

“This is why it’s very important to know what the weather conditions are before you head out. How will those conditions effect the water you are heading out upon and also how will those weather conditions effect your craft in the changing environmental conditions?

“This may sound like a lot to think about before deciding to go for a leisurely paddle, but the consequences of getting it wrong can be fatal,” Mr Mundy says.

The FindaBeach website is a great place to check the local risks and find out when Surf Lifeguards are on duty. Safeswim also has information about Auckland beaches.

People who are paddle boarding or kayaking must remember the following safety messages:

- Always wear a leash - chose the correct type for the conditions.
- Wear a buoyancy aid (a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD))
- Know the conditions, now and forecast
- Take two waterproof ways to call for help
- Tell someone onshore your plans.

* Volunteer Lifeguards in the Southern Region start patrolling from November 15, and in the Central Region from early December.

© Scoop Media

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