Lifestyle

Surf lifeguards ready to patrol New Zealand’s beaches despite Covid


The public is asked to be patient on New Zealand beaches this year and work with surf lifesavers to stay safe as this year’s patrol season kicks off.

Patrols began at Labour Weekend in most parts of the North Island, and began this weekend at most patrolled beaches in the South Island.

At North Canterbury’s Waikuku Beach, weekly patrols would continue through to mid-March.

Lifeguards would patrol the beach on Saturdays and Sundays, while paid regional guards would patrol weekdays during the summer holidays.

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Surf Life Saving New Zealand chief executive Paul Dalton said there had been a “tremendous amount of work going on” to provide clubs with advice on how to operate safely at different Covid-19 alert levels, and under the new traffic light system.

“Clubs and members will be at the beach, but it might be a bit different to previous years, in terms of the lifesaving service provided in some areas.”

National club and volunteer development manager Chris Emmett said many beaches would function as normal, with flagged areas and lifeguards patrolling.

However, depending on the local Covid situation, some clubs may have reduced staffing or may even have decided not to patrol due to Covid complications and availability of club members.

Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon and Waikuku Beach Surf Lifesaving Club president Duncan Campbell celebrate the start of the patrol season at Waikuku Beach.

Supplied

Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon and Waikuku Beach Surf Lifesaving Club president Duncan Campbell celebrate the start of the patrol season at Waikuku Beach.

It meant the public may not see the familiar red and yellow flags as some clubs may have reduced capacity. In these instances, the public should take extra caution in the water.

If patrol flags were not up, lifeguards would watch from patrol towers and monitor along the beach on foot, or from vehicles such as quad bikes, jet skis or inflatable rescue boats.

Lifeguards would wear masks and observe social distancing, but would perform rescues and first aid if required. They would also stop people from entering rips, holes or other hazardous spots.

If conditions were too dangerous for the public and the lifeguards, beaches may be red flagged, meaning the public should not enter the water.

“If possible, go where there is a lifeguard presence and find the flagged area as the safest place to swim. But if you’re in doubt about the conditions or area, please stay out of the water,” Dalton said.

Surf lifeguards are ready for another summer of patrols at Waikuku Beach.

Supplied

Surf lifeguards are ready for another summer of patrols at Waikuku Beach.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand beach safety messages

  • Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags
  • Read and understand the safety signs – ask a surf lifeguard for advice as conditions can change regularly
  • Don’t overestimate your ability or your children’s ability to cope in the conditions
  • Always keep a close eye on very young children in or near the water – always keep them within arm’s reach
  • Get a friend to swim with you – never swim or surf alone
  • Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip current remember the 3Rs: *Relax and float, *Raise your hand and *Ride the rip
  • Be smart around rocks: When fishing never turn your back towards the sea and always wear a life jacket
  • If in doubt, stay out!
  • If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for the Police
  • Be sun smart – slip, slop, slap and wrap to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.



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