Surf lifesavers have clear message for New Zealanders hitting the beach this summer

Monday, 13 December 2021

Lockdowns and warmer than average temperatures have seen people hitting the beach in record numbers but surf lifesavers are pleading with Kiwis to swim between the flags.

Across the Northern Region, three people have died and 62 have been rescued in just over a week.

That death toll could've doubled if one volunteer hadn't forgotten her jandals.

Surf lifesaving is a family affair for the Wanden-Hannays and Karekare Beach is their playground.

But this summer is already proving dangerous.

All three volunteers were involved in the rescue of two boys and their father after their patrol had ended on Sunday.

"I was getting ready to go home and I couldn't find my jandals and I thought I might have left them at the beach," Shalema Wanden-Hannay tells Newshub.

It was during the jandal search that she spotted the group in a rip. She alerted help and then dived in and swam out to start the rescue.

"At one point, I looked down and could see the father face down in the water," Shalema says.

But fortunately, back up in a boat was on its way.

"We drove to where Shalema was and we hauled the patient into the boat," Shawn Wanden-Hannay tells Newshub.

They took the father to shore where Jess was waiting to perform CPR.

Shalema says the only thing that saved this family was the fact she forgot her jandals.

"If I hadn't gone down to look for them, the situation was just so close that all three of those people would have died," Shalema says.

The lives that the Wanden-Hannays family saved were just three of nine people pulled out of the water at Karekare on the weekend.

"All of those rescues would have been drownings if we hadn't happened to have been there, so that's nine lives saved that could have been absolute tragedies," Shalema says.

Wednesday marks the first day of summer, and the Wanden-Hannay family wants to help keep your family safe.

The surf lifesaving family have a message for Kiwis on how to identify a rip so they don't get caught in one.

"You want to look for a calm path of water with waves breaking either side," Jess says. "You might see foam or debris moving out to sea."

Almost half of the fatal drownings in the last decade have happened during summer and in the past 12 months, 80 percent of drownings have been male.

"It just is so stark, and really makes you sit up and say what's going wrong," chief executive of Surf Life Saving NZ Paul Dalton says. "Why is it that all of our males in New Zealand are making bad decisions?"

In the past year, 513 people were rescued from New Zealand waters and this family is asking for you to swim between the flags because Shalema is not going to forget her jandals every time.

Watch the full story here -

News article credit: Newshub