Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

More than 40 lives saved on Western Bay beaches so far

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Robert Shed down on the beach in front of Omanu Surf Club. Photo / John Borren
Robert Shed down on the beach in front of Omanu Surf Club. Photo / John Borren

Lifeguards along the Western Bay of Plenty have already saved the lives of more than 40 people who found themselves in danger in the water.

Paid lifeguards battled the surf to rescue people at Omanu 20 times this summer and five times in Papamoa.

The Mount Maunganui Surf Club could not provide figures for the number of rescues performed by paid life guards but said volunteer patrols, who manned the beach on the weekends and were available for 24-hour callouts, had made 18 water-related rescues and 20 land-based rescues.

The last two weekends of voluntary patrols were very busy due to the lingering heavy surf produced by ex-tropical cyclone Victor. Volunteer patrols have been particularly busy with preventative actions moving people out of areas where conditions, rips, holes, etc pose a hazard.
Glenn Bradley

The land based rescues usually entailed helping people on the various Mauao tracks.

Volunteer lifeguard season began with weekend patrols on October 25 and ends April 6. Paid life guards patrolled the beaches during the week from mid-December to February 5.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said the past two weekends had "undoubtedly been the two busiest for the season so far".

"The last two weekends of voluntary patrols were very busy due to the lingering heavy surf produced by ex-tropical cyclone Victor. Volunteer patrols have been particularly busy with preventative actions moving people out of areas where conditions, rips, holes, etc pose a hazard.

"Long range forecasts are showing pretty unsettled, choppy ocean conditions for this coming weekend, so we are continuing to send the same messages of swim between the flags, never swim alone, and be conscious of your abilities or skills in the surf and make conservative choices when conditions are rough."

Those being rescued were not usually strong swimmers, he said. "They don't appear to be familiar with or skilled in the ocean and surf environment. They certainly seem to be putting themselves into situations where they end up well outside their comfort zone."

Read more: Mates save struggling swimmer at Omanu

Volunteer lifeguards would patrol the beach and set up a flagged area each weekend until the first weekend of April, he said.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Lifesaving services and education manager Allan Mundy said compared to last season this year was down on rescues, despite heavy waves and big tides pummelling the coast in recent weeks, but lifeguards were still frustrated with beach goers swimming outside patrolled areas.

"If we didn't rescue those people they would have drowned," he said.

There still had not been a drowning inside flags on a beach in New Zealand in over 100 years, he said.

"Swim between the flags or at the very least where you can see lifeguards."

Omanu club head lifeguard Robert Shed said they had rescued about 20 people along the 5km stretch of beach they patrol since the season started on December 14 with seven of those rescues in one day.

Read more: Four peaks in a day for good cause

Last year the whole Bay of Plenty coastline was plagued with rips but this year had been more mellow, he said.

Papamoa club captain Shaun Smith said they had rescued four swimmers and one kite boarder this season.

Rescue numbers:

Rescues performed by paid lifeguards
* Omanu: 20
* Papamoa: 5
* Information not available for Mount Maunganui

Rescues performed by volunteer lifeguards
* Mount: 18 water related rescues and 20 land-based rescues
* Information not available for Omanu and Papamoa

- Bay of Plenty Times

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