Zespri supports big winter of training to kick start Surf Lifeguarding Season

Friday, 19 October 2018

Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) Eastern Region’s strong volunteer surf lifeguard force is ready to tackle another summer, with the continued support of Zespri by raising the iconic red and yellow flags at key spots around the region this weekend, marking the official season start of this essential emergency service.

Six local Surf Life Saving Clubs will raise their flags this weekend, with more clubs throughout the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel set to join them over the coming weeks into November and December. At the peak season, there will be nearly 30 active patrols across the region’s coastline which also the Gisborne/Tairāwhiti Area.

The six clubs that are ready to raise their flags from this weekend, and for every weekend over the summer are Hot Water Beach, Whangamata, Waihi Beach, Mount Maunganui, Omanu Beach and Papamoa covering the most popular spots.

While most beaches don’t raise their flags until November or December, the traditional beginning of the SLSNZ season is Labour Weekend and surf lifeguards are encouraging people to take their safety advice on board this long weekend, and dial 111 (Police) if you think you can see someone in trouble.

“The best option is to swim between the flags at a lifeguarded beach. It truly is the safest place for you to swim, so you should always do that if possible,” said Eastern Region Lifesaving Manager, Chase Cahalane.

“However, if you’re heading out this weekend and the flags aren’t an option, make sure you follow our safety advice but call 111 and ask for Police if you do see anyone in trouble. Even though the flags may not be up, surf lifeguards are often already around your community and can respond quickly with help from the Police,” Mr Cahalane continued.

While the flags will start to appear from tomorrow, volunteer surf lifeguards in the Eastern Region have not stopped training since dropping the flags at the end of last summer, clocking up over 2,500 hours of training throughout the winter months. This has been done thanks to Zespri’s “incredible support” that focuses on community investment through lifeguard training programmes; in fact, just last weekend alone 24 new Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) drivers gained their qualification.

Considering IRBs are involved in the majority of rescues, Zespri’s investment in the training of these new drivers will go a long way to saving lives this summer.  

Last season surf lifeguards around the Eastern Region, which covers the coastline from Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel down to Midway in Gisborne put in over 62,000 patrol hours on the beach resulting in over 312 life-threatening rescues while helping another 475 people out of a potentially dangerous situation.

That means nearly 800 New Zealander’s made it home from this area thanks to surf lifeguards, and this year, they want to make sure every Kiwi makes it home from a day at our beautiful beaches.

Rip currents are the main cause of rescues performed at a beach, and Mr Cahalane encouraged people to learn how to spot them before getting in the water. Often they appear as regions of deeper, darker water with less wave breaking activity between areas of white water, or a patch of surface water that is rippled or bumpy with criss-crossed waves compared to areas either side of this section of water.

“Remember, if you’re unsure that what you’re looking at is a rip, don’t get in the water. If in doubt, stay out,” he said.

“But if you do get into a rip, it’s important to stay calm, relax and float. The rip current will not pull you under, and nor will it take you out to sea. It may take you a little way out but often the water will circulate and bring you into shallower water where you can stand up. Just stick your hand up, and either a surf lifeguard will get you, or someone will call 111 and get help to you. At this time of year, you can last a long time floating on your back in the surf,” he explained.

SLSNZ Beach Safety Messages

  1. Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags
  2. Read and understand the safety signs - ask a lifeguard for advice as conditions can change regularly
  3. Don't overestimate your ability or your children's ability to cope in the conditions
  4. Always keep a very close eye on young children in or near the water - keep them within arm’s reach at all times
  5. Get a friend to swim with you - never swim or surf alone
  6. Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip current, lie on your back and FLOAT, put your hand up and call for help
  7. Be smart around rocks: When fishing, never turn your back towards the sea and always wear a lifejacket
  8. If in doubt, stay out!
  9. If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for Police
  10. Be sun smart – Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap. Protect your skin and eyes from the sun's damaging rays

For more information, please contact:

Alana McIsaac, Media & Communications Manager
Phone 027 515 7157