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Gloomy Weather On Christmas Day No Hamper On Rescue Activity By Surf Lifeguards

Despite the wet and gloomy weather in many areas, surf lifeguards across the country were kept busy on Christmas Day, with 13 rescues and 10 assists performed nationally. In total, more than 2,197 hours were spent patrolling Aotearoa New Zealand’s coastlines on Christmas Day, while 789 preventative actions by Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) surf lifeguards kept the public safe.

While many regions were relatively quiet, this did not stop the occurrence of several major incidents, including a mass rescue performed at Wainui near Gisborne, a multi-service (SLSNZ, Coastguard New Zealand, and Police) search and rescue operation for a missing kite surfer at Raglan, multiple rescues at Waipātiki, and the treatment and helicopter transfer of a suspected spinal injury at Whangamatā, involving SLSNZ surf lifeguards, Hato Hone St John, and Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

At Piha, two members of the public ignored surf lifeguard advice about a safe place to swim. The refusal to follow this advice resulted in surf lifeguards being required to perform a tube rescue on one of the swimmers, with assistance from an inflatable rescue boat (IRB).

Steve Fisher, SLSNZ CEO, says that one of Surf Life Saving’s core objectives is to intervene early and stop a situation from escalating, and that both paid and volunteer surf lifeguards are present to provide guidance and expert advice to the public.

“We exist to support the public in safely enjoying New Zealand’s coastlines. Surf lifeguards have an excellent understanding of the many dangers present, and we highly recommend that the public heeds our advice, particularly when it comes to some of our country’s more dangerous beaches such as Piha,” he says.

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“The situation at Piha could have very easily become a serious or even fatal incident without the second intervention performed by surf lifeguards there, however it is frustrating when members of the public do not heed our early guidance.

“We provide a great deal of information to the public through channels such as Safe Swim website, and through information boards and signage at beaches. But when you arrive at a beach, between the red and yellow flags is always the safest place to swim.”

Weekend patrol statistics

Aggregated patrol statistics (national):

  Christmas Day (National) 
No. of people rescued 13 
No. of people assisted 10 
No. of major first aids 0 
No. of minor first aids 16 
No. of searches 0 
No. of preventatives 789 
No. of people involved 9247 
No. of peak head count 2503 
No. of hours worked 2197 

Northern Region patrol summary and statistics:

Piha performed both an assist and a rescue on Christmas Day, returning a total of four people back to shore safely. In particular, two members of the public ignored lifeguard advice about a safe place to swim, which resulted in a tube rescue swimmer performing a rescue with assistance and back-up from an inflatable rescue boat (IRB).

At Raglan, Coastguard New Zealand was notified by Police of a kite surfer in difficulty at the entrance to the Raglan Bar. They contacted the Raglan patrol, which was mobilised to provide support to the Coastguard New Zealand jetski. An IRB and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) responded and completed an initial search, before Coastguard located the patient and assisted them back to shore. Raglan also assisted two further patients who got into trouble while swimming.

Northern Region Statistics:

  Christmas Day 
No. of rescues performed 3 
No. of people assisted 4 
No. of major first aids 0 
No. of minor first aids 2 
No. of searches 0 
No. of preventatives 332 
No. of people involved 2547 
No. of peak head count 470 
No. of hours worked 736 

Eastern Region patrol summary and statistics:

A Whangamatā beach goer injured themselves in the surf zone. They had managed to get themselves to shore, however, surf lifeguards noticed that the patient seemed to be in distress. The patient was immobilised on the beach and lifeguards carried out a secondary survey before transporting the patient to the surf club on a spinal board. Lifeguards notified SurfCom and requested assistance from Hato Hone St John. When the ambulance crew arrived, they provided further patient care before transporting them to the helicopter landing pad. The patient was picked up by Westpac Rescue Helicopter and transferred to hospital for further medical care.

Other beaches in the region were also kept busy, with surf lifeguards at Wainui performing a mass rescue, pulling four patients from the water just outside of a known surf break, and surf lifeguards at Waihī performing an assist.

Eastern Region Statistics:

Christmas Day   
No. of rescues performed 4 
No. of people assisted 1 
No. of major first aids 0 
No. of minor first aids 5 
No. of searches 0 
No. of preventatives 128 
No. of people involved 2420 
No. of peak head count 720 
No. of hours worked 606 

Central Region patrol summary and statistics:

A relatively quiet day across the region, with minor first aids being carried out by Ōtaki, Levin-Waitārere, Palmerston North, and New Plymouth Old Boys.

Waipātiki, meanwhile, rescued three people who were dragged off of their feet between the flags, and a further two people who were boogie boarding outside of the flags and became stuck in a rip.

Central region statistics:

  Christmas Day 
No. of rescues performed 5 
No. of people assisted 0 
No. of major first aids 0 
No. of minor first aids 4 
No. of searches 0 
No. of preventatives 180 
No. of people involved 2410 
No. of peak head count 760 
No. of hours worked 457 

Southern Region patrol summary and statistics:

Surf lifeguards at New Brighton performed the one rescue of the region today, when patrol members who were practising their IRB skills noticed a swimmer out the back of the flagged area who was struggling to return to shore. The IRB crew assisted the patient into the boat and returned them to the beach - a good example of how training can translate into real life. Elsewhere in Southern region, there were a few minor first aids carried out by Spender Park, Sumner, Scarborough, and Kākā Point.

Sumner also performed an assist for two patients, while lifeguards at Kākā Point were kept busy warning beachgoers of sealion activity around the beach.

Southern region statistics:

  Christmas Day 
No. of rescues performed 1 
No. of people assisted 5 
No. of major first aids 0 
No. of minor first aids 5 
No. of searches 0 
No. of preventatives 149 
No. of people involved 1870 
No. of peak head count 553 
No. of hours worked 398 

2023-2024 Season Beach Safety Messages from SLSNZ:

1. Know How To Float

If you don’t know how to float, don’t go into the water.

Just being able to float when you are in the water can increase your chance of survival. Floating allows you to calm yourself and keep your airways out of the water. It is also the first thing to do if you get caught in a rip.

If you don’t know how to float well, practice or get some lessons in a pool before you head to the beach - being able to float is a key skill when learning to swim. Anyone can learn to float but some people may take a little longer to learn.

2. Find The Safest Place To Swim

Remember if you are heading to the beach, check to find a lifeguarded beach, and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which show the safest place to swim. The surf lifeguards are there to help keep beachgoers safe, by keeping a constant eye on sea as they continuously scan for hazards or people in difficulty, keeping on top of weather forecasts and understanding the swell and tide conditions too.

3. If In Doubt, Stay Out

Waves can be bigger than they look, dangerous rip currents are hard to spot and weather conditions can be unpredictable. If you feel uncomfortable about getting into the water, stay out. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Too many people get into trouble in the water because they overestimate their abilities and underestimate the conditions.

4. Take Care of Others

Always keep children within arm’s reach in or near the water. Waves can move quickly and unexpectedly and can knock kids off their feet and sweep them away. Everyone has different levels of ability, so watch out for your mates too.

5. Know How to Get Help

If someone in the water is in trouble and surf lifeguards are on patrol, let them know. If you can’t see any surf lifeguards, call 111 and ask for police. Police have a direct line to surf lifeguards and others who can help.

If you’re in the water and in trouble yourself, signal for help.

© Scoop Media

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