Busy start to the year for Raglan lifeguards

RACHEL THOMAS
Last updated 05:00 06/01/2014
Raglan lifeguards
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ

On patrol: Raglan Surf Lifesaving Club lifeguards Chelsea Lowther, 15, Olivia Tobin, 18, Alix Pene, 15, Samantha Diffey, 15 and Grace Kalma, 15, keep an eye on people at the popular beach.

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Raglan lifeguards have dubbed themselves the busiest in the country, with strong rips bringing extra hazards to the west coast beach this year.

But despite a myriad of rescues, beaches in the Waikato have been death-free this holiday season.

Andrew Withers, president at Trust Waikato Raglan Surf Life Saving Club, said the club carried out 11 rescues on January 2.

"The start of our year has been ridiculously busy, it's just cranking. I'd say we're definitely shaping up to be the busiest club in the country."

Raglan patrol captain Taylor Scott said lifeguards carried out 11 rescues and 11 first aid treatments on January 2, thanks to flash rips and an onslaught of blue bottle jellyfish.

"It was a combination of the mass amount of people and some of the most dangerous conditions I have seen in a while.

"We put the flags in the safest spot but a rip opened up at the north flag and started pulling out swimmers."

He said the patrol had two rescue boats and four lifeguards in the water on patrol - a technique the club used during extremely busy periods to improve response times.

None of the rescues required resuscitation, and the club had not had a drowning for a long time, "touch wood", he said.

"Most people will be knocked off their feet in a big wave and get sucked out, or they get a bit cocky and go out of their depth."

Mr Scott expected the busy period would drop off as many people headed back to work this week, but it was largely weather dependent.

Port Waikato lifeguards had also been kept on their toes, club president Malcolm Beattie said.

"From New Year's Day to Saturday we have had record crowds with huge numbers in the water."

Mr Beattie said the Sunset Beach Surf Life Saving Club also ran a water patrol.

"We've made a lot of preventative actions because our low tide gets really strong southerly rips. I think the water safety message is getting through though, 99 per cent of people are bloody good."

He predicted the rise in numbers at Sunset Beach was partly because of population growth in Tuakau and Pokeno.

Surf has been down on east coast beaches, making them a safe playground for holidaymakers at Waihi Beach and popular Coromandel spots.

Acting patrol captain at Whangamata, Cameron Walker, said lifeguards had enjoyed a "really quiet summer".

Despite thousands flocking to Whangamata Beach on Saturday for the Thundercat Racing event and a peak head count of 2500, swimmers were sensible.

However, over in Katikati, families are mourning a lost one after the body of fisherman Peato Samele Ilalio was discovered yesterday morning.

The navy was conducting a sonar search of the area when the body floated to the surface, Sergeant Craig Madden of police search and rescue said.

Mr Ilalio was last seen in difficulty off the Kauri Pt wharf on January 2 after jumping in to retrieve his fishing rod.

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- Waikato Times

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