Lifeguards save nine people at Karekare Beach on Auckland's west coast from 'deadly' rip

Friday, 26 November 2021

Original story by Melanie Earley from


Lifeguards save nine people at Karekare Beach on Auckland's west coast from 'deadly' rip

Lifeguards at an Auckland west coast beach saved nine people after swimmers became stuck in a ‘’deadly’’ rip.

A Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) spokesman said there had been nine rescues at Karekare Beach over the weekend.

He said there was a “dangerous rip” at the beach, where in May 2020, 14-year-old Portia Deluen drowned.

Portia died during an outing with her friends at the beach when they got caught in a powerful rip after being hit by a large wave.

Karekare Beach Lifesaving chairwoman Jessika Wanden-Hannay said there had been “massive increases” in beach numbers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Wanden-Hannay said on Saturday that three people got into trouble after becoming caught in the rip near the centre of the beach but were successfully rescued by lifeguards Eti Eves and Oscar Parks.

On Sunday, two more groups of three became caught in the same rip, after patrolling hours for lifeguards had finished.

“We were packing up when one of the members went to the beach to grab something and was told by a member of the public that people were in trouble.


Luckily lifeguards were still at the recently built Karekare Surf club on Sunday when the incidents happened.


“We launched a boat and picked all three people up, one had been a member of the public who had tried to help, and took them to shore.”

Shortly after, Wanden-Hannay’s mum, Shalema Wanden-Hannay, also a lifeguard, went down to the beach to look for her slides when she saw three people, a man, a teenager and a boy, in that same rip.

Shalema Wanden-Hannay said the situation “was getting bad fast”; she raised the alarm, and grabbed three rescue tubes and made her way towards the family.

“I swam to the teenage boy and gave him a rescue tube, and he told me his dad was in trouble; when I swam to him, he was face down in the water.”


Karekare Beach lifeguards had a busy weekend of rescues.


Once on shore, the man was unconscious and not breathing so the Wanden-Hannays, along with another lifeguard, Mike Mulchay, and a member of the public, performed CPR.

The man was revived and flown to hospital by the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter in a critical condition. His two children were also taken to hospital in a moderate condition.

“It was a real community effort,” Wanden-Hannay said, “it is not often you have a successful resuscitation from drowning.”

All the rescues had occurred after patrol hours had finished, she said, and it was important people remembered it was not safe to swim when lifeguards were not present.

Rips are often in really calm patches of water, and there is no assurance you will choose the safest spot. Regardless of conditions, if you are swimming without lifeguards on patrol you are at risk.

“Regardless of weather, Karekare is a dangerous beach, and it takes a big toll on lifeguards doing all these rescues, you are always on alert.”

Wanden-Hannay reminded people who became caught in a rip that they should relax, raise their hand and ride the rip.

She also urged people to use the SafeSwim website to see when beaches were patrolled and what the hazards were.