What would we do without the lifeguards who patrol our beaches with such commitment every summer?

Between Christmas Eve and 6am on January 5, 10 people drowned in New Zealand.

None of those drownings took place between the flags set up by surf lifeguards.

Imagine how much higher it could be if we didn't have lifeguards manning the beaches at popular holiday spots around the country.

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Lifeguards do a lot more than just rescue people. They work hard to educate people and prevent people from getting into trouble while swimming. Amy Wiggans

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Yesterday we reported the Omanu, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa surf clubs had already rescued more than 40 people this summer.

That's more than 40 people who might not still be alive without the quick thinking and training of our lifeguards.

Read more: More than 40 lives saved on Western Bay beaches so far

Surf Life Saving New Zealand has funding to pay some lifeguards to patrol the beach on weekdays during the busiest summer months but a good portion of those who thanklessly patrol our beaches are volunteers.

They give up part of their weekend throughout summer to patrol the beaches and look out for others in the water. It must be a thankless job a lot of the time.

People often don't respond well to their warnings until they're in trouble.

Lifeguards do a lot more than just rescue people.

They are not just the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

They work hard to educate people and prevent people from getting into trouble while swimming.

While lifeguards may only have rescued 42 people this summer, they have prevented countless more from needing to be rescued.

We live in an island nation and our beautiful beaches are hard to resist but the sea can be unpredictable and catch even the most seasoned swimmer off-guard.

We should not take our lifeguards for granted. We should take the chance every once in a while to say thank you.

At the same time, we need to take heed of their warnings and make their jobs easier.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said those who got into trouble were often unfamiliar with the ocean and put themselves in situations where they ended up getting outside their comfort zone.

If you're not a strong swimmer, don't put your self in danger - stay where you can touch the ground and swim between the flags.