Lifeguards warn of dangerous conditions on most Eastern North Island beaches later this week, with tropical cyclone expected to create large swell

Thursday, 13 January 2022

This summer has already seen horrific drowning statistics around Aotearoa, with several serious incidents and fatalities occurring at East Coast beaches. With a category 1 cyclone approaching New Zealand, lifeguards are warning the public that conditions on Eastern beaches will be dangerous this weekend and early next week.

Cyclone Cody is due to hit New Zealand on mid-Saturday and waves along the East Coast of the North Island are expected to build rapidly from Friday the 14th of January and through the coming weekend. Some popular beaches, including Mount Maunganui, are forecast to experience wave heights of up to 4 metres by Sunday. All the Eastern side of the North Island will be impacted, including Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and possibly Hawkes Bay.

Allan Mundy is the National Search and Rescue Manager at Surf Life Saving New Zealand and a lifeguard at the Omanu Beach Surf Life Saving Club. He advises, “Conditions created by the cyclone are likely to pose great risk to swimmers and people carrying out other coastal activities as they create strong rip currents, strong winds and large surging waves inundating the beach, which are a hazard for would-be swimmers and walkers alike.”

Even when swimming in relatively shallow water, swimmers can quickly find themselves out of their depth when these large cyclone swells hit the beach. Such waves are not consistent, and this unpredictable pattern often catches out beachgoers, because the large dangerous waves are spaced well apart. The best advice is to take note where the wet sand is, that’s how far the big waves will travel up the beach - so stay out of that zone.”

Local surf lifesaving clubs are keeping close tabs on the movement of the tropical cyclone which has already hit Fiji. Lifeguards are asking the public to respect the swell and the dangerous conditions and be wary and watchful on the East Coast, over the coming weekend and following week.

If people choose to swim on the East Coast, they should only do so at a lifeguarded beach and seek out the lifeguards on patrol for their advice on the conditions. They should also follow this advice:

  • Only swim between the red & yellow flags
  • Do not swim alone
  • Keep young children out of the water and within reach if close to the water
  • Do not take any undue risks.

Be aware the lifeguards may choose not to put the red and yellow flags up and fly ‘Red Danger - No Swimming’ flags instead. These flags warn the public the beach is not safe to swim at during this period. Please respect their decision and find somewhere safer to swim, such as a public swimming pool.