Lifeguards warn swimmers to play it safe in the water

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 30/12/2013
Foxton beach
WARWICK SMITH/ Fairfax NZ
ON GUARD: Foxton Beach lifeguards keep a watchful eye.

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Manawatu's lifeguards are gearing up for a scorching summer season, but are warning keen swimmers to stroll a little further to find safer waters.

This weekend was the busiest Manawatu's beaches has seen since surf lifesaving season began at the start of the month.

The Foxton Beach Surf Life Saving Club's peak head count reached 409 people in the water or on the beach in one hour on Saturday afternoon.

Patrol captain Nathan Webb said the patchy weather put people off a bit yesterday, with the peak head count reaching 60 people.

About 4000 volunteer lifesavers will spend more than 200,000 hours keeping a watchful eye on coastlines around the country this summer.

Foxton Beach's club has more than 20 qualified lifeguards - a figure which has doubled since two months ago, club captain Hellen Windley said.

But more hands on deck may be needed as the swimming conditions in certain spots are more dangerous than before, she said.

Near the seaside carpark in particular there are a number of holes, rips and bluebottles along the beach, which people were getting caught in.

Last month, a teenage girl and her 10-year-old sister nearly drowned after they got caught in a hole and dragged underwater, close to where their group's car was parked.

"People don't realise how turbulent some of the holes can be; it can go from being knee deep to over your head in a few steps," Windley said.

Swimming between the flags is safe and the best option to avoid rips and holes, she said.

Surf Life Saving NZ chief executive Paul Dalton said most problems at surf beaches happened after patrol hours, out of patrol areas or when people had been drinking.

An average surf lifesaving summer season sees more than 1200 people rescued from life-threatening situations, with last year's number jumping to more than 1600.

There have been 78 drownings this year as of Boxing Day, according to Water Safety NZ.

Rips are a strong current that flows rapidly away from the shore, while holes are whirlpools which often lead to rips.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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