Guards need help on Foxton Beach

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 28/01/2013

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A balmy summer has heralded a wave of rescues and a distress call from Foxton Beach for more volunteer lifeguards.

The Foxton Surf Life Saving Club hopes to attract new volunteers for patrols of the beach as the hot summer season continues, with more than 20 rescues under its watch at weekends alone.

The club was looking for "as many as we can get", club president Shaun Sayer said.

By this time last year, the volunteer team had done only "two or three" rescues.

This summer, the rescues are up to 20 and counting.

People getting caught in rips and undertows or dragged out in currents were keeping the volunteers busy at weekends, club captain Hellen Windley said.

"This has been crazy, and that's just the volunteers, not the regional guards," she said.

This year had been unusually busy, Ms Windley said.

She had attended a recent drowning at Himatangi Beach, and helped stave off another close call when a man swimming while the beach was closed got into trouble just last week - he did not drown but was "damn near close".

"People are really, really thankful.

"We have had one mum recently whose little girl was out just waist deep, but she was just little and she was in tears when we got her - so scared but so thankful.

"It's the reason we keep doing it - that and we love the beach."

The regional guards work weekdays, while volunteers needed to be prepared to devote a significant part of their summer weekends to volunteering, Mr Sayer said.

The club has about 18 people on rotating patrol rosters and it hoped for more, to ease the pressure on the current teams who had barely had a summer break.

"A lot of people need time off over Christmas so it is the same people here day in, day out, everyone works on the weekends, a lot of them have jobs, families, not to mention a social life," Ms Windley said.

But it was not all hard work and no play - young volunteer lifeguards had no complaints with spending their weekends at the beach, soaking up the sun as they honed their skills in the surf.

Brianna Davies, 17, had been part of the club for five years and as a life-saving competitor was a keen advocate for the opportunities volunteering offered.

"We get to meet all these people, we get to know a little bit about the beach, we raise other people's awareness about the beach and they become more aware of safety stuff."

Riki Parata, 14, had just passed his first qualification and was looking forward to next summer, when he would be fully licensed to join his fellow club members in saving lives.

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"It's pretty exciting when you see a person in the water in trouble; they [the lifesavers] just get into the boat and they're off."

The volunteer season runs from the first weekend of December until the end of March every year.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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