You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The waves were big and so were the boulders, forcing lifeguards to order surfers away from the St Clair Beach access steps during day one of the National Surfing Championships yesterday.
Surfers were told to paddle as far as the sand beyond the boat ramp at the Esplanade to get out of the water as the tide came in during the competition's afternoon session.
Surf pounded the beach's boulder bank and Esplanade sea wall, and surfers found the choppy, swirling water difficult to negotiate.
One surfer who tried but failed to get out of the water via the Esplanade steps said the water felt "wobbly'' and "dangerous''.
He gave up and paddled to the boat ramp.
Championship director Ben Kennings, of Surfing New Zealand, said the issue was being closely watched and managed by event organisers.
With low tide falling just before 11am, conditions only became dangerous at the end of the day's events, he said.
With low tides falling in the middle of the day throughout the week and lower swells expected, the dangers were expected to be minimal, he said.
St Clair Surf Life Saving Club head lifeguard Cameron Burrow said lifeguards were monitoring the returning surfers, had throw bags at the ready and were on standby to "swim people out if we need to''.
Sand loss during winter storms meant access to the water had been particularly difficult this summer, and fresh sand loss in the past week had exacerbated the problem, Mr Burrow said.
That led lifeguards to "close the beach'' three hours before high tide yesterday.
While they could not force people not to use the beach, they were advising against it for high tide periods, he said.
"We're advising the public not to walk across [the beach] either because you're going to get pinned up against those rocks and you're going to get in a little bit of trouble.''
He urged people not to be overconfident, to respect the conditions and not to swim alone.
Dunedin City Council parks, recreation and aquatics group manager Richard Saunders said council staff were working with the life saving club and the South Coast Boardriders Association to resolve the issues.
Staff met both parties yesterday morning to discuss water access, closing the most unsafe stairs and extra signs for the area.
"Longer term, we've certainly heard that call around an alternative access point around the salt water pool area. And that's something we're going to be looking at in our longer-term planning.''
The discussion about new access points would begin this year, he said, "but it is a reasonable piece of work''.
The $7million 2004 sea wall was built in front of a 1913 wall, but had been frequently damaged.
An access ramp was damaged and rebuilt several times before being destroyed last year.
Further along the beach, new sand sausages to control dune erosion were expected to be in place by the end of May, Mr Saunders said.
• Many of the rocks are natives to the beach, having been unearthed by erosion.
• A 3000-tonne top-up was provided over July and September 2013, following sea wall damage and the opening of sinkholes along the Esplanade.
• Boulders protect the footing of the sea wall, guarding against the undercutting which led to the fill beneath the Esplanade being sucked out during large storms.
• Several rocks were removed from the wall last month to clear access paths from the sea to the freshly waterblasted steps.
• Severe winter storms in 2015 sucked huge amounts of sand from the beach, with traditional sand levels failing to return.