Public safety concerns for the beaches along the east coast due to cyclone swell

Friday, 17 January 2020

Photo: Cody Keepa/Keepa Digital

Surf Life Saving NZ is urging beach goers to be extra vigilant next week if they are visiting the East Coast.

Due to the low pressure systems in the Pacific created from the ex-tropical cyclone that is now tracking off the East Coast of the North Island, the swells are predicted to be a lot larger than normal next week.  

Surf Life Saving NZ National Lifesaving Manager Allan Mundy says this could result in bigger waves and stronger rips – which means the risk for swimmers and beach goers getting into difficulty will increase.

“We often experience an increase in difficult, challenging rescues during this type of weather pattern.”

Mr Mundy says people walking along the shore should watch out for large waves surging up the beach.

“These have the power to knock people over and will travel well past the high tide mark. Young children, the elderly and small dogs are most at risk.”

Mr Mundy says anyone who goes swimming should swim between the flags.

“Do not swim alone and stay well within your depth. Be aware that when a large surging wave comes into shore, what was your swimming depth will be lost as the surge carries you out at least an extra metre – that’s half the height of an adult!

“If you have been swimming in shoulder deep water you now are in water well over your head, in a body of water that will want to get back out to sea.”

Mr Mundy says anyone who does get into difficulty should remember the 3Rs Rip Survival Plan.

RELAX and float to conserve your energy. RAISE your hand to signal for help. RIDE the rip until it stops and you can swim back to shore or help arrives.

He says raising your hand will attract attention and indicate that you need help.

“With Surf Lifeguards doing observational patrols in the area, either we will see you, or someone will alert us to your need.”

He says many rips will circulate back to shore, so if you feel able, once you get closer to shore you can swim in.

“If not remain calm and continue to float until help arrives,” Mr Mundy says.

The Met Service warns areas east from Northland to Coromandel, Bay of Plenty to East Cape, Gisborne and down to Hawke's Bay, and maybe even Wairarapa, may be effected by these high seas.

Volunteer patrols with flagged areas continue at most beaches around the North East this weekend and Surf Life Saving NZ encourages people to swim during these times. During the week some beaches will be patrolled by seasonally employed Surf Lifeguards.

“The safest option is still to swim between the flags at a lifeguarded beach.”

You can find out where and when these patrolled beaches are on or by downloading the BPMe app to your smartphone.


SLSNZ Beach Safety Messages

Surf Life Saving NZ encourages beachgoers to follow these 10 safety messages to ensure their own safety and those around them.

  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, RELAX and float, RAISE your hand to signal for help, RIDE the rip until it stops and you can swim safely back to shore.
  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:

Allan Mundy
National Lifesaving Manager
Surf Life Saving New Zealand
027 245 2660


Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433