Lifeguards warn about rips

A large rip is visible as a long stretch of flat water near an old pier at St Clair Beach,...
A large rip is visible as a long stretch of flat water near an old pier at St Clair Beach, Dunedin, yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Lifeguards are urging swimmers to enjoy themselves between the flags at St Clair Beach, in Dunedin, this summer, but not become complacent about nearby rips. Steph Botting, head lifeguard at St Clair, said the flags were positioned to keep swimmers away from strong rips.

But even when people were swimming or body boarding between the flags, they should keep a close eye on their position so they were not drawn out of the flagged area into rips at the north and south of the beach.

There were no rescues at St Clair over the Christmas-New Year period, but a precautionary check was made on two body boarders late last week.

Ms Botting had also paddled back to the beach on her surfboard late last week, guiding a man in an ocean-going kayak.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Otago regional lifeguard supervisor Gavin Murdoch said no rescues had been recently required at nearby St Kilda Beach, or at any of the three other patrolled Otago beaches, from Kaka Point and Brighton, in the south, to Warrington, in the north, where paid lifeguards are on duty on weekdays during summer. Swimming between the flags and maintaining a healthy respect for rips were two key safety messages this summer, he said.

And the position and nature of some rips could change quickly, even in a few hours.

''One big swell or a big rain can come through and change it all.''

At all the beaches, including Brighton, where he is based, beach-goers had been well-behaved and co-operative.

Perhaps the unluckiest swimmer near Dunedin recently was an off-duty lifeguard who received a bloody nose at Brighton last Thursday after being struck by an untethered surf board.

This had washed into the flagged area, where the lifeguard was hit while trying to protect other swimmers.

The busiest day of the summer holidays had been Christmas Day, but beaches are expected to prove popular tomorrow, when temperatures are forecast to reach the high 20s.


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