Paid lifeguard services wind down

By Mike Barrington -
Photo / Sally Gibbs
Photo / Sally Gibbs

Paid regional lifeguards who started patrolling five Northland beaches on December 24 will stop working at Whangarei Heads, Ruakaka and Baylys Beach today.

The paid lifeguard service will end at Waipu Cove on January 11, but will continue at Mangawhai Heads until January 25.

Volunteer lifeguards will work weekends on all five Northland beaches after the regional guards from Surf Lifesaving Northern Region pull out.

The paid guards had a busy time over the holidays too, with Waipu Cove Surf Lifesaving Club lifeguards helping rescue a man and his teenage son on a jetski who got into trouble in heavy winds and seas.

And on December 23, club members had rescued two 16-year-old boys swept on to rocks in a rip.

Club president Rick Stolwerk said members were preparing to host the transtasman lifesaving tri-series today and their club day on Sunday, when there would be a 3km swim from Langs Beach to Waipu Cove, a 10km run from Waipu to Waipu Cove, and a host of children's activities.

The next big event on the Waipu club's calendar would be the Northern Region Carnival on January 12, when up to 800 under 14-year-olds from 17 clubs would compete at the cove.

There have been 11 rescues at Whangarei Heads over the past two weeks - nine on New Year's Day - but surf lifesaving club captain Julian Pitman said they had involved "just pulling people out of trouble" before there was any risk of drowning. The beach had changed over winter, producing new rips and holes.

Mangawhai Heads Surf Lifeguard Service captain Richard Kannemeyer said a big new hole at the beach "sucks people in from the right and left" and made it difficult to ensure swimmers stayed within flags.

Mangawhai lifeguards had encountered "hairy conditions" when they towed a boat which broke down outside the bar. They had also brought in a couple of people who drifted away while snorkelling near Head Rock.

Ruakaka Surf Lifesaving Patrol captain Ben McKernan said in the past few days lifeguards had dealt with a couple of emergencies involving ambulances taking people to hospital.

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