Beachgoers fall foul of run-out cyclones' tails
Big swells and beach weather put lifesavers on alert, reports Matt Bowen.
A perfect storm of sun, surf and ocean temperature has the eastern surf lifesaving region on target for one of its busiest summers on record.
And holidaymakers from the Waikato interior are "more pronounced" in the official statistics this year.
So far, there have been more than 140 rescues and one drowning on the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty areas since patrols started at Labour Weekend in October - but 90 per cent of those occurred after December 18 ,when the swell picked up.
Solid, consistent surf, warm water early in the season and clement weather have combined to get more people into the water, eastern region manager Chris Emmett said.
"Personally, I think we're heading toward one of the busiest summers we've ever had.
"We hardly had a summer at all last year so we had a bit of a perfect storm," Mr Emmett said.
The remnants of tropical cyclone Evan sent swell rolling into notorious spots such as Hot Water Beach and the fast rising swell on Sunday, associated with ex-tropical cyclone Freda, caused a spate of rescues at normally placid Hahei Beach.
A group of experienced surfers visiting the beach from Whangamata and Raglan helped save 20 swimmers early in the afternoon.
Hot Water Beach SLSC head lifeguard Gary Hinds said they were called to assist in that rescue and three swimmers had to be assessed by paramedics.
Four more people were pulled from the surf later in the evening, he said.
Due to the large swell, Hot Water Beach lifeguards were stationed at Hahei again yesterday.
They dragged two more swimmers from the thumping waves.
It takes the club's rescue total this year to more than 50, including two separate incidents of drunks in the surf.
In Papamoa, its lifeguards had 37 rescues in the past two weeks alone.
"The swell is a big part of it," Mr Emmett said.
"What it does is it makes the beach a lot more unpredictable.
"When you've got constant swell the rips are always changing. Some people know their limits and some don't.
"So people have just got to be aware of their own limits and just not go out if they think [the surf] is too big."
Statistics also show a "pronounced" number of people from inland areas, such as Hamilton and Cambridge, getting into trouble.
Meanwhile, the Trust Waikato Raglan SLSC has had a typical busy season but the incidents weren't as serious as on the east coast.
Head lifeguard Travis Slattery said perhaps people were more wary on the typically dangerous west side.
"People are probably a little more relaxed on the east coast and they shouldn't be. Any beach has its own set of dangers."
There were two close calls at the weekend, including a male tourist who was sucked out of his depth in a rip.