Warning to stay out of Bay of Plenty surf

By Sonya Bateson -
The search for the missing 17-year-old Hamish Rieger's body. Photo/George Novak
The search for the missing 17-year-old Hamish Rieger's body. Photo/George Novak

People are being asked to stay out of the water in the coming days as the big swell that has hit local beaches increases.

A large wave knocked Hamish Rieger, 17, from Moturiki Island on Saturday and rescuers battled big surf yesterday to retrieve his body.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service president Brent Warner said the forecast in the next couple of days was for increasing surf, which was a concern.

"The swell dropped today [Sunday] but is expected to rise. There's a lot of water moving out there, it's very dangerous."

Read more: 'We'll always remember Hamish'
Monster surf at Mount

The Mount Maunganui club had been involved in a number of rescues since the big swells began.

"We've had a number of incidents. We had a surfer that dislocated his shoulder rescued from down the coast.

"These conditions are difficult, dangerous and treacherous - please stay out of the water."

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said people at the North Island's east coast beaches should be aware of the dangers from swells and big waves created by Cyclone Victor.

"I'm not sure if what happened in Bay of Plenty on Saturday was anything related to Victor with that boy drowning, but this is what we see almost every time there is a cyclone that is offshore.

"We almost always see a death or someone being swept out to sea.

"So we are trying to put out a message that even if the weather is really lovely at your camping ground or your beach there is quite a dangerous storm well out at sea that is changing the conditions on our east coast beaches," he said.

Mr Duncan said people should use commonsense and stay alert if they were on rocks, were looking after children or were not confident in the water.

Metservice marine meteorologist April Clark said the large swells would keep increasing tonight and tomorrow.

Yesterday had a significant wave height of 1.5m on the top third wave heights and a maximum wave height of 2m at the Port of Tauranga.

Miss Clark said with a tropical cyclone coming on, Metservice was expecting the swell to rise to its highest point this evening. It would then stick around all day tomorrow.

It may increase on Wednesday, then ease off on Thursday as the direction of the tropical cyclone changed, she said. "We're expecting waves up to 3m on Tuesday."

The tropical cyclone had caused a big swell of the Bay of Plenty coast and elsewhere in the country for about a week. Miss Clark said swell sizes were "pretty consistent" in this time.

The PlaceMakers Omanu Beach "Day of Champions" organising committee made the call to postpone all events that were scheduled yesterday as resources were used in the rescue operations, its Facebook page said.

The event had been partially postponed because of the large swell, with only certain senior categories planned to go ahead.

A searcher looks for Hamish Rieger before his body was found. Photo/George Novak
A searcher looks for Hamish Rieger before his body was found. Photo/George Novak

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