Lifeguards gear up for final season patrols

For Surf Lifesaving Northern Region

Lifeguards at major beaches in the northern region will put up and take down the flags for the last time this weekend as the final 2018-19 season patrols are carried out.

Surf Life Saving Northern Region Operations Manager Alan Gibson says beach attendances have progressively decreased since the summer peaks, “but the beach risks don’t change. Whether there are 10 on the beach or 1000 – we still have to be alert and ready to effect a rescue.”

Gibson says patrols will operate over Easter at 15 beaches: Whangarei Heads, Ruakaka, Waipu Cove, Mangawhai Heads, Omaha, Orewa, Mairangi Bay, Muriwai, Bethell’s Beach, North Piha, South Piha, Karekare, Kariaotahi, Sunset Beach and Raglan. “The patrols will generally operate from 11am till 5pm, but we’ll have extended hours at some of the clubs: patrols will start at 9am at Muriwai and 9.30am at Kariaotahi, and will run till 6pm at Raglan and North Piha and till 7pm at Orewa, Mairangi Bay, South Piha and Kariaotahi.”

Gibson says the cooler weather and lower water temperatures reduces the number of swimmers at the beaches but also raises the risk for those entering the water.  “There’s a higher risk of hypothermia if you don’t have a wetsuit, so you need to be careful how long you do spend in the water.

“But our focus will also be on those doing other recreational pursuits on the coasts, such as rock- and crab-fishing, climbing around the rocks and boating,” he says.  “Much of our serious rescue and callout activity this season has related to those sorts of activities as opposed to swimmers in the water.”

He sounded a final clarion call to those going to the beach around sticking to a number of key beach safety messages. “If you want to have a safe time at our beaches then go to a patrolled beach during the patrolled hours and swim between the flags. Never swim or surf alone and keep young children within arm’s reach at all times. Don’t over-estimate your ability – and if in doubt, stay out of the water. If you’re fishing from rocks you must have a lifejacket, and if you see someone in trouble call 111 and ask for Police – they will quickly alert the nearest patrols.”

Gibson says while volunteer patrols will cease after Easter, SLSNR maintains an on-call team year-round should an incident arise.  “On-water activity doesn’t cease just because the sea is cooler and the weather may be bad; there is still a lot of activity on the coasts with the risk of a tragedy occurring.  Our job never really stops.”

That includes looking ahead to next season’s needs, he says. “Our services rely strongly on volunteers so we are currently recruiting for our volunteer ranks for next summer – anyone who would like to join us should go to”

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