Surge of rescues despite weather

Warrington beach lifeguards Maggie Gorman (18, left) and Dani Gager (16) set up their patrol...
Warrington beach lifeguards Maggie Gorman (18, left) and Dani Gager (16) set up their patrol flags on Saturday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Surf lifeguards are concerned about a surge in beach rescues around Otago and Southland, despite the weather being mostly undesirable for swimming so far this summer.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Otago/Southland club development officer Felix Cook said heavy rain had kept many people away from the beach this season, but SLSNZ records showed 12 people had been rescued by lifeguards in Otago and Southland since beach patrols began in October last year.

"It has been a pretty atrocious summer so far, so there has been less people in the water, but we have still had to carry out some rescues with people getting themselves into difficulty."

There had also been one water fatality in the region this summer — diver Jake Bridson (23) died during a diving incident at Owaka Heads in late December.

Of the 12 rescues, nine occurred during patrol hours and three were outside patrol hours, he said.

"Additionally, there are a number of people we are aware of that were rescued by members of the public."

By comparison, surf lifeguards rescued a total of 20 people in Otago and Southland during the last season (2019-20).

"While we have already performed over half the number of rescues as last season and the weather conditions thus far have been less than desirable, this high frequency of rescues may be attributed to the fact that Kiwis have been unable to travel overseas, and as a coastal nation we will engage in ocean-based activities."

Nationwide, there has been a spate of water-related deaths since the start of the year.

Seven people are thought to have drowned, and a woman died near Waihi last Thursday, probably due to a shark attack.

Mr Cook said the majority of the incidents in Otago and Southland so far involved swimmers entering the water where rip currents were present.

"Our advice is to always swim at a patrolled beach when possible. Educate yourself on how to identify and escape rip currents and make sure you don’t overestimate your swimming abilities."

He said it was important advice because more people would venture to their local beaches as the season progressed.

"If in doubt, don’t go out."

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