First Surf Lifesaving Patrols of The Year to Commence on Labour Weekend

Thursday, 19 October 2023

This Labour weekend marks the commencement of the 2023-2024 patrol season for Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ), with a confirmation of an established El Niño, combined with a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) likely to mean a long, hot summer in northern parts of the country – and high numbers of beachgoers.


Steve Fisher, SLSNZ CEO, says this indicates a busy season ahead for surf lifeguards, and has called on the public to help their local Clubs to ensure everyone stays safe.


“We want everyone to enjoy the beach with us. Our surf lifeguards across the country are a friendly, approachable presence. We’re there to keep you and your whanau safe, so we encourage beach goers to come and ask us questions, find out about the beach and water conditions for that day, hazards to watch out for, and what the tides are doing. Many of our patrolled beaches also have informative signs that display this key information, so we also encourage everyone to look out for these,” says Steve.


SLSNZ has released its key beach safety messages for the 2023-2024 season, which are based on incidents that have occurred over the last few seasons, the Omnipoll research over the last three years, and international research and safety messages.


“Everyone knows the saying “swim between the flags”, but it’s still the best way to ensure you enjoy your time in the water safely,” says Steve Fisher. 


“We’ve never had a drowning between the flags. Our volunteers are incredibly well prepared, trained and committed to supporting the public. Across the country, they have spent the winter months preparing their gear, refreshing their qualifications, and making sure they’re fit and ready to respond quickly and effectively. So, remember if you are heading to the beach, check to find a lifeguarded beach, and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which show the safest place to swim”


He pointed out that there had already been several rescues in the weeks preceding the patrol season commencing, including the dramatic helicopter winching to safety of a rock fisher in 3m swells at Auckland’s Piha Beach on Sunday 8 October.


“People need to be aware of the risks. Our beaches across the country are getting busier, earlier. We want to make sure we are available to provide support to beach goers, so that they can enjoy our country’s beautiful coastlines safely.”


He urged the public to remain vigilant in and around the water, and emphasised the importance of people making safe decisions for themselves, their whānau and families, and their friends.


2023-2024 Season Beach Safety Messages from SLSNZ:


  1. Know How To Float

If you don’t know how to float, don’t go into the water.


Just being able to float when you are in the water can increase your chance of survival. Floating allows you to calm yourself and keep your airways out of the water. It is also the first thing to do if you get caught in a rip.


If you don’t know how to float well, practice or get some lessons in a pool before you head to the beach - being able to float is a key skill when learning to swim. Anyone can learn to float but some people may take a little longer to learn.


  1. Find The Safest Place To Swim

Remember if you are heading to the beach, check to find a lifeguarded beach, and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which show the safest place to swim.


The surf lifeguards are there to help keep beachgoers safe, by keeping a constant eye on sea as they continuously scan for hazards or people in difficulty, keeping on top of weather forecasts and understanding the swell and tide conditions too.


  1. If In Doubt, Stay Out

Waves can be bigger than they look, dangerous rip currents are hard to spot and weather conditions can be unpredictable. If you feel uncomfortable about getting into the water, stay out. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Too many people get into trouble in the water because they overestimate their abilities and underestimate the conditions.


  1. Take Care of Others

Always keep children within arm’s reach in or near the water.  Waves can move quickly and unexpectedly and can knock kids off their feet and sweep them away. Everyone has different levels of ability, so watch out for your mates too.


  1. Know How to Get Help

If someone in the water is in trouble and surf lifeguards are on patrol, let them know.  If you can’t see any surf lifeguards, call 111 and ask for police. Police have a direct line to surf lifeguards and others who can help.


If you’re in the water and in trouble yourself, signal for help.