The familiar red and gold colours of surf lifesavers are about to make a return to Northland beaches this weekend as the weather and water warm up.
Clubs at Ruakaka, Waipu, Whangarei Heads and Mangawhai will begin their volunteer patrols on Saturday as beachgoers hit the sand and water.
Other beaches to be patrolled will be Ahipara, from December 17 to February 6 on weekends and public holidays, and at Bayleys Beach from December 17 to January 7.
Regional lifeguards would begin patrolling the beaches in December during the busy Christmas period and while numbers are yet to be confirmed about 21 will be based on Northland beaches.
Operations manager Northern Region Adam Wooler was pushing the usual safety messages for those heading to the beach which included swimming between the flags, never swimming in the surf alone and staying clear of rips.
Water Safety NZ records show there have been eight drownings in Northland for the year to date, of which six were considered preventable.
Mr Wooler said people needed to be smart around rocks.
"Whether fishing or exploring at the beach, rocky outcrops can be very dangerous in large surf. When fishing, always wear a lifejacket," he said.
A jet ski will be back in action this summer based out of the Ruakaka club.
The addition of a jet ski to patrol Bream Bay last season played a key role in keeping the beaches fatality-free over the busy summer holiday period. The jet ski allowed lifeguards to cover a larger slice of the coast and speak with more people to educate them about the dangers of the beach, particularly visitors from Auckland gathering crabs.
The $25,000 jet ski came after the Northern Advocate joined forces with Whangarei Lions and Surf Life Saving New Zealand to get the money for the potentially life-saving water craft following two drownings in Bream Bay the previous summer in areas away from surf patrols.
A fun day out at the beach turned to tragedy for the 15 people nationally last summer who drowned at unpatrolled beach locations.
As 4000 volunteer lifeguards begin to head out on patrol for another summer season, they are pleading for people to choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags so this year doesn't bring a repeat of those drowning statistics.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand national lifesaving manager Allan Mundy says during the 2015/16 summer season, lifeguards saved 1517 people from life-threatening situations.
"Sadly, there were 57 preventable drowning deaths last summer (October 24, 2015-March 22, 2016) of which 15 occurred at beaches. None of those were at patrolled locations. We cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared and choosing one of our 80 patrol locations nationwide so that we can be there for you if you get into trouble," he said.
Of the 15 beach drownings last season, the standout cause was rips with seven deaths directly resulting from swimmers getting caught in them.
Mr Mundy said a lot of people panic when they find themselves caught in a rip and they tire themselves quickly by trying to fight against it.
"The safest place to swim is always between the flags as lifeguards actively seek out the safest place on the beach to set them up and will regularly move them throughout the day as the surf conditions change," he said.
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