News

SLSNZ Acknowledges Heroic Response from Piha Surf Lifeguards

Monday, 19 February 2024

Surf Life Saving New Zealand would like to thank the Piha Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) and United North Piha Lifeguard Service, for their swift response to a tragic incident at Auckland’s Piha Beach. 

 

On the evening of 11 February, 2024, at 5:20pm, surf lifeguards from Piha SLSC were alerted to a 37-year-old man struggling in dangerous surf at the south end of Piha Beach.

 

By 5:25pm, the first surf lifeguards entered the water, while others quickly assembled more members.  In total, 20 surf lifeguards were involved in the search, equipped with two Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs) and one Rescue Water Craft (RWC) on the water.

 

Despite their quick response, the water search was suspended at 6:40pm, and shoreline searches were halted at 8pm, with no sign of the missing man.

 

Zac Franich, Northern Region General Manager, said, “Our thoughts are with the man’s whānau and friends.  Every incident weighs heavily on our Surf Life Saving community and the volunteer surf lifeguards who always respond so bravely.”

 

Franich highlighted the dedication and expertise displayed by the surf lifeguards at Piha Beach, saying, “Everyone worked seamlessly together, showcasing their remarkable skills in the face of unpredictable and dangerous surf conditions.”

 

Despite it being a sunny and bright day, there was a persistent onshore wind.  At the time of the incident, the surf was choppy, and large.  This combined with a dropping tide and strong rips made for hazardous swimming conditions and created challenges for surf lifeguards.

 

Franich said the incident also happened outside of patrol hours, “It’s important for people to always check when surf lifeguards are on patrol.  You can do this by going to safeswim.org.nz.  Here, you’ll be able to see where and when surf lifeguards are on duty, and you can plan your trip accordingly.  We know that swimming between the red and yellow flags is the safest place to swim as surf lifeguards will keep a close eye on conditions to ensure you return home safe and sound.”

 

SLSNZ would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the other emergency services who responded to this incident.