Lifeguards cop kite surfers' aggro

KERRY GALLAGHER
Last updated 10:56 14/02/2013
lifeguard

JETTY JUMPERS: People are risking their lives in the Orewa Estuary, lifeguards say.

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Lifeguards have been caught in the middle as beach visitors and kite surfers dish up abuse.

People have abused volunteer lifeguards over a perceived lack of action about irresponsible kite surfers, Orewa Surf Club president John Chapman says.

But when lifeguards try to explain the rules, the kite surfers have sometimes abused them too.

Mr Chapman says the problem is "out of town" kite surfers who have a "blatant disregard for maritime rules".

The problem intensified with more kite surfers coming to take advantage of strong easterly winds.

Mr Chapman says kite surfers from Orewa who are regularly at the beach are very responsible and support good practices.

But "out of towners" do not have the same consideration, he says.

"They just scoot in and out wherever they like. We try to do the best we can but my volunteer lifeguards are getting abused by beach goers and the kite surfers too, because we go over and try and explain the rules.

"In fact, there's almost been a couple of brawls this year. Some of them get really stroppy."

Meanwhile, swimmers in Orewa's estuary have posed further problems for lifeguards.

Mr Chapman says people think swimming in the estuary is safe. But he estimates more than 70 per cent of Orewa's lifeguard rescues have been there this year, with swimmers being swept out in the tide, including two swimmers taken to hospital.

The problem is largely families, he says.

"I had this happen to me one day when I was on patrol. Mum and five little kids were right in the middle of a rip - a tidal rip going out, and she goes ‘what's the problem?'."

Signs warning of strong currents have been sometimes been posted near the estuary mouth.

Jumping in the estuary is also dangerous, particularly from the bridge, Mr Chapman says.

"The classic is kids leaning on the ‘Danger Do Not Jump off the Bridge' sign and standing up on the railing to jump into the water."

Mr Chapman says he has seen postings about the jumping spot on Facebook with jumpers claiming it was safe and that they knew where the safe spots were. But with the currents, rocks and other material can move about, he says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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