Festive event helps beach heroes

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 11:10 29/11/2013
Jamie McDell
Jason Oxenham/Fairfax Media

JAMIE McDELL: New Zealand Music Award winner and recently trained lifeguard.

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Christmas in the Park on Saturday is a fundraiser for Surf Life Saving New Zealand. Vicki Anderson talks to Stu Bryce about the volunteer lifeguards who do their best to keep Cantabrians safe in the water over summer.

Swim between the flags. Swim between the flags. Swim between the flags.

Every year, almost 100 people drown at our beaches.

Every year Surf Lifesaving New Zealand patiently offers the same message: Swim between the flags if you're at a patrolled beach. If you're not at a patrolled beach, don't go out beyond your swimming ability. No matter where you are, respect and enjoy the water.

Alhough lifeguards are trained and are constantly vigilant in protecting the safety of beachgoers, swimming outside the red and yellow flags makes their job tougher.

Simply put: if they can't see you, they can't save you.

This year Christmas in the Park continues to support Surf Life Saving New Zealand in their efforts to ensure Kiwis have a safe summer at the beach.

Recently qualified lifeguard Jamie McDell, who won Best Pop Album category at the New Zealand Music Awards last week for her album Six Strings and a Sailboat, makes a return appearance in support of Surf Life Saving, during the ambassadors' message at 7.15pm.

Volunteers from Canterbury's Surf Life Saving will be selling "glow items", says southern regional manager Stu Bryce.

"We've partnered with Christmas in the Park for a number of years, it's great to be involved.

"We're a free service for people in the community. Our crew will be out selling glow products in their red and yellow uniforms."

Beach patrols started last weekend from Waikuku to Taylors Mistake and the organisation's 1500 volunteers, including 1000 lifeguards, will be kept busy rescuing until March 8. Volunteers patrol Saturday and Sundays and from Monday to Friday regional lifeguards are on patrol at seven Christchurch beaches.

Bryce said fundraising is vital for the organisation.

"I consider what we do to be an essential community service. The support from councils and the community make it possible. We are also grateful for help from the Lotto grants board."

It's not Baywatch. There's no slow motion running or Hoff-lookalikes jumping sharks in inflatables.

But Bryce admits to being a little blase about the many rescues undertaken and lives saved each year.

"It's what we do".

If you want to become a volunteer lifeguard, to earn your red and yellow cossie you need to be over 14 years of age, a good swimmer - "it sounds obvious but you'd be surprised" - pass an oral test and be prepared to train hard.

"As they go along and develop they increase their skill sets all the time, from administering first aid to operating equipment needed for rescues."

Back in January, hot weather and dangerous surf conditions forced lifeguards to close Taylors Mistake beach after they pulled nearly 30 people from the water in one day.

All of these rescues happened outside the flags. Two were made after the beach was closed.

Then lifeguards warned that mass rescues could happen again if swimmers keep taking risks in dangerous conditions.

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That weekend in total 44 people were rescued from Canterbury beaches by our volunteer lifeguards. Two people were taken to hospital in serious conditions, while two were treated by ambulance staff on the Taylors Mistake beach with oxygen.

Bryce has a dream.

"Our ultimate goal is not to have to do rescues. That will mean our water education, and the swim between the flags message, is sinking in. Above all we want everyone to enjoy the water."

Swim between the flags, swim between the flags, swim between the flags.

THE DETAILS:

Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, Saturday, 7.30pm-10.15pm in Hagley Park North, Rolleston Ave. All ages. Free admission. Buy tomorrow's Weekend Press for the free official Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park programme. christmasinthepark.co.nz 

 

THE PERFORMERS:

Co-hosted by More FM's Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick, entertainment at this year's Christmas in the Park includes the winner of TV3's X-Factor NZ Jackie Thomas, together with fellow X-Factor NZ performers Benny Tipene, Anna Wilson, Cassie Henderson and boy band Moorhouse. Also performing at the popular Christmas musical extravaganza is r'n'b artist Vince Harder, rocker Michael Murphy, singer/songwriter Ainslie Allen, entertainer Drew Neemia and Christchurch's own Natalie Slade. They'll be sharing the stage with the "godparents" of the show, Jackie Clarke and Frankie Stevens and four backing vocalists led by Sharon Emirali, in a talented cast of singers, dancers and performers for what organisers are promising will be one of the most spectacular shows ever performed on the big stage. Events conclude with a spectacular fireworks finale.

BEACH SAFETY TIPS 

- Surf Lifeguards use the red and yellow flags to show the safest place to swim that day. During the day the flags may be moved as wind, tide or surf conditions change, so always check where they are.

- Be Sunsmart. New Zealand has the highest death rate from melanoma in the world, each year 200 people die from melanoma and another 50 die from other preventable skin cancers. Remember to apply sunscreen before you go out in the sun, reapply every hour or after you have been in the water.

- Be smart around rocks. Whether fishing or exploring at the beach, rocky outcrops can be very dangerous in large surf. Don't think a wave will simply wash around you, moving water is powerful. Never stand on a rock outcrop that is already wet - a sure sign waves will be washing over it. Always face the ocean; never turn your back on the sea. Always have a clear escape path to safe ground - don't get caught by the sea.

- Find a Beach that's right for you. See findabeach.co.nz.

Source: Surf Lifesaving New Zealand

- The Press

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