Lifesavers flag long, hot, safe summer

By Corey Charlton

A veteran Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Lifesaving Club member has two simple messages for those hitting the water this summer - get out there and enjoy yourself and swim between the flags.

The club's opening day took place on Sunday, so from now until the third weekend of March its volunteer members will be patrolling the water every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday.

Leonard Kay, a club member for 30 years, said they were expecting a nice, warm, Hawke's Bay summer.

In summer their lifeguards would do "anything up to 200 preventative rescues" during which they escorted people into safer areas of the beach, and 10-12 "full on rescues" for those that were in serious trouble.

"We were established in 1964 so we're coming up to our 50th anniversary," he said. "Over that time we think we've saved about 700 lives. Pretty much all our rescues occur outside the flagged area. A small percentage of our rescues are done inside the flags.

"The message is pretty simple: If you swim between the flags you're in a safe part."

The opening of their season was celebrated with a club event held at the beach with their future lifeguards, the Nippers [7-13 year-olds], training.

"It went really well, we had over 50 young kids out to do our Nippers training," he said. "It wasn't such a big [public] crowd for opening day, because the weather's obviously a bit overcast.

"We could have done with a bit more sun but we can't help that. Given the weather, I think it was a great turnout."

He was anticipating a busy summer with forecasts showing it to be warmer than last season.

"The only message we'd like to get out is come out and enjoy our wonderful beach.

"Swim between the flags and leave the rest up to us. We're out there to assist and help the community in whatever way we can.

"At the end of the day, we are a community service.

"It's just a beautiful, magical spot and people gravitate to it on a good, hot, summer's day."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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