With Easter marking the official end to the patrol season, Surf Life Saving statistics show nationwide rescue numbers have decreased by 37 percent on last season.
Surf lifeguards have spent 213,975 hours patrolling around 80 beaches since Labour Weekend 2013, rescuing 1,027 people, which is down on last year's total of 1,649 and more level with the 2011/12 season total of 1,088.
Lifeguards have also conducted a total of 1,717 first aid treatments, down 13.5 percent on last season's total of 1,983. The number of searches undertaken also decreased from 360 last season to 264.
Nationwide, the largest number of rescues took place at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel where there were a total of 101 rescues followed by Whangamata and Mount Maunganui who undertook a total of 56 and 54 rescues respectively. They were followed by Piha with 53 rescues and Raglan with 47.
Muriwai (41), Sumner (40), Riversdale (35), Orewa (34) and Opunake (28) rounded out the top ten.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton says the number of beachgoers dropped significantly in most parts of the country due to the inconsistent weather patterns that New Zealand has seen this summer, especially during the Christmas holidays. "Naturally, with less people on the beaches, there is less chance of people getting into trouble," he says.
However, for the many people that did visit the beach this summer, the unpredictable weather meant lifeguards were kept on their toes. "The inconsistency of the conditions meant things could change very quickly, and that's when our lifeguards would jump into action," he says.
Most years, lifeguards will conduct around 1,200 rescues on average. Mr Dalton says this year's statistics are down slightly on the average and down quite significantly on last year's seemingly endless summer that happened to be one of the busiest in years.
Mr Dalton says many of the rescues this season have taken place outside of patrol hours and outside of the flagged area. "As patrols have now officially ended, we ask that people take responsibility for their own safety when around water," he says.
When swimming at an unpatrolled beach, Surf Life Saving New Zealand encourages beach goers to adhere to a few simple rules. Be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.
The Surf Life Saving season typically begins at Labour Weekend and runs through to Easter. Mr Dalton says with 18,000 members spread across 74 clubs nationwide, that's a vast web of skill and knowledge that is working together for the good of the community and literally saving lives.
"Patrols may have ended but for our volunteers, there are countless hours of training, continued up-skilling and keeping their surf clubs running. Being a volunteer lifeguard is a huge commitment, and for many of our members it's a lifetime commitment. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our national rescue service and it's thanks to our people, our lifeguards, that Surf Life Saving can continue to operate, he says.
Hot Water Beach 101
Mt Maunganui 54
Water Safety Tips:
- Always keep an eye on
children in the water
- Get a friend to swim with you- never swim or surf alone
- Watch out for that rip… rips are calm patches of water that can sometimes have waves breaking to the side. Rippled, discoloured or foamy water with debris can also mean there is a rip present.
Lisa Honeybone, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823